Asians and belly fat

Posted by Puteri | 8/29/2007 02:09:00 PM | | 0 comments »

I do not have a weight problem, but I do have a belly fat problem. Even when I was a skinny teenager I had a fat tummy in comparison to the rest of my body.

Now that I am older, I do not know if there is something I can do about reducing the belly fat. What bothers me is that the fat could be the inner abdominal fat, or visceral fat that is associated with heart disease and diabetes.

A Canadian study found that the Chinese and South Asian participants tended to have a greater proportion of visceral fat. That means Asians are more likely to develop weight-related illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. :-(

By Terri Coles

TORONTO (Reuters) - The danger in putting on weight isn't just a matter of how much, but also where the fat goes -- and it seems some ethnic and racial groups have a tendency to gain fat where it does the most damage.

Compared with people of European ancestry, those of Chinese and South Asian ancestry tend to have relatively more inner abdominal fat, which puts them at a higher risk of developing weight-related illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, a Canadian study found.

The results, published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show that current methods of measuring body fat may not be accurate for people who are not of European descent because the targets generally used for waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) are based on studies whose participants were predominately of Caucasian European origin, said lead researcher Dr. Scott Lear, and an assistant professor at the School of Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.

This inaccuracy could make it harder to identify weight-related problems and to treat people in certain ethnic populations, even when they are the same size as Europeans. "If we use targets based on Caucasians for the Asian population, we're not going to identify people until they're at a higher risk," Lear said.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute for Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, looked at 800 healthy Chinese, South Asian, Aboriginal and European subjects, evenly distributed among the four ethnic and racial groups.

The participants' amounts of abdominal fat were compared based on the same amounts of total body fat, Lear explained, because in a random sample, the Chinese and South Asians would tend to be smaller than the Europeans and would have less overall body fat even if they had the same BMI, a ratio of weight to height.

Inner abdominal fat, or visceral fat, is not the fat you grab when you pinch an inch on your stomach. Instead, it sits behind the abdominal wall around the internal organs, and tends to be more strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers found that Aborigines didn't have a difference in their body fat distribution compared with Europeans, but the Chinese and South Asian participants tended to have a greater proportion of visceral fat.

The research team recognized that other factors such as diet and physical activity might differ across ethnic groups, so those were taken into account, along with smoking, education and income. Even with those influences controlled for, the differences in body fat still remained.

"What that lends us to believe," Lear said, "is that there's some physiological or genetic rule that is deciding that a higher proportion of fat goes into the abdominal area in Asians than it does in Europeans."