- For women at a certain stage in life, “this could be too good to be true.”
- This hormone could be changing your weight…
- The dangers of stomach fat
As a health writer, I plough through a LOT of online journals…
I subscribe to a LOT of newsletters…
And I follow a LOT of different blogs, forums and social media feeds.
Which has one unexpected side-effect.
Because of the pages I view and people I follow, my Facebook recommendations are VERY weird for a man in his mid-40s.
Like this headline which popped into my feed from the New York Times….
“For middle-aged women struggling with their weight, a recent spate of scientific findings sounds too good to be true.”
This was about a study just published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Cell Metabolism.
Dr. Mone Zaidi, a professor of medicine, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City has been doing studies on the link between hormone changes and weight problems.
They’ve only been on mice so far, but the results are exciting.
Well…. exciting if you’re a woman of a certain age and you’re finding yourself struggling to control your weight more than you use d to.
Zaidi and his team have found that a hormone involved in the menopause can lead to women going from a pear shape to an “apple shape”.
In other words, you start to gather loads of fat around the middle instead of on the thighs and bum.
What’s more, that extra fat is harder to fight and control.
The culprit is the hormone FSH, which spikes in levels just before then menopause, just as women’s ovaries start to fail.
It shifts the body’s accumulation of fat to the abdomen, which is a far riskier place to store fat because it’s more likely to affect the major organs and cause health problems.
This goes right back to something I wrote to you about the health risks of belly fat at the beginning of July.
If you remember, I told you about new research that links serious health problems to that “spare tyre” that many people develop around their waist, including…
- Cardiovascular deaths are 2.75 times higher for people of normal weight with big tummies compared to people with a normal waist-to-hip ratio.
- Adding 11cm around your abdomen can increase the risk of cancer by 13%.
- The fat around your waist causes toxins called cytokines to make your body less sensitive to insulin. A major factor that can induce diabetes.
- Each additional pound of fat around your middle is linked to new onset high blood pressure and high triglycerides (which lower levels of GOOD cholesterol).
For more on this subject, read my post on belly fat here.
Why pears are preferable…
Now, I don’t want to wade into any debates over body image and what society considers ‘beautiful’. We’re all beautiful in our own ways – except for me on a Monday morning before I shave.
On an aesthetic level, the apple shape is generally disliked by women who prefer to have shapely thighs and bum than a round apple shape. On the other hand, many women dislike being pear shaped too.
However, it’s not fashion or vanity that I’m concerned with, this is purely about health. And there is a significant benefit to being pear shaped.
In 2010 a study showed that pear-shaped women are at lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The research was carried out by a team from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (OCDEM) and published in the International Journal of Obesity.
They suggested that waist or abdominal fat causes more fatty acids to become deposited in organs like the liver and muscle, where they cause harm. This can lead to conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease.
However, when your hips and thighs store fat it prevents those fatty acids from moving closer to those organs.
Konstantinos Manolopoulos, one of the paper’s authors says: “thigh fat and a larger hip circumference have been shown to promote health”.
He adds: “However, if you put on weight, thigh circumference will increase but your waist circumference will also increase, which over-rides the protective effect.”
Which brings us back to the hormone FSH.
A trigger for a more unhealthy storage of fat
When FSH starts to redistribute the weight in your body from thighs and hips to your waist, that’s when you lose the benefits of being pear shaped… and when you become more apple shaped, which is less healthy.
But the study into FSH by Dr. Mone Zaidi has some positive implications.
Because she has found that if you block the production of FSH, more calories get burned and the more quickly dangerous abdominal fat begins to melt away.
These are only tests on mice, so we don’t know yet if this is exactly the same in humans, but scientist are increasingly interested in this link between obesity and how hormones interact in your body.
If you’re particularly worried about belly fat, whatever your age or condition, then I’d recommend you try out something like the X-Grip.
This is a device that you can strap around your waist. As you do simple twisting moves, tiny nodules on the device break up your excess belly fat.
Of course, alongside the X-Grip you should consider exercise and a more balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables – but that goes without saying!
Until next time, stay healthy!