The Zoomer Report: Belly Fat and Bones

New research is shooting down one of the few possible advantages of carrying extra weight.

In the past, doctors had suggested that excess body fat, which is associated with heart disease, diabetes, and many other problems, may protect against the bone disease osteoporosis.

But now, a study finds this may be misleading. In fact, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital say deep belly fat may contribute to osteoporosis. That’s because the fat cells most likely produce substances, not yet understood, that lead to bone disease in addition to heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers looked at 50 premenopausal women and examined their fat using CT scans. The human body has two categories of fat: superficial fat, which lies under the skin, and visceral fat, which surrounds organs. The first type of fat has been shown to have benefits against diabetes and heart disease when distributed around the hips.

It’s the second kind of fat, the deep belly fat, that is bad for bones. The study found that this fat was associated with lower bone mineral density, a measure of bone strength.

Most other studies on fat and osteoporosis have looked at weight or body mass index which do not reflect this distribution of fat.

Photo © Jennifer Sheets

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Libby ZnaimerAbout The Zoomer Report

Libby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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