People come in all shapes and sizes, but the average shape and size of most Americans has increased to the point where there is cause for concern. More than 1/3 of all adults in our country are obese and that statistic just keeps growing - like our waistlines. Excess fat not only contributes to a higher number on the scale, it also increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What is Fat?
Fat is an essential, complex organ of our body that helps to protect bones and organs, and it regulates hormones and the immune system. It even sends messages out to the body when it's time to eat, and when the body is satisfied. Issues arise when our bodies have stored too much fat, particularly in the abdominal area.
Subcutaneous Fat - fat that can be pinched with the fingers, located close to the surface of the skin. It might not be the most cosmetically appealing for some, but more importantly, it's not associated with any major health concerns.
Visceral Fat - fat that is located deeper in the abdomen, surrounding internal organs. Visceral fat is less visible to the eye, but is associated with many health concerns, including:
- Inflammation in the colon and the artery walls
- Increased risk of insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer
Apple vs. Pear
It's not just the type of fat we have that matters to our health. Where that fat is stored in the body is also important. Each body is different, but there are two common classifications of body shape: the "Apple" and the "Pear".
- Apple-shaped people tend to store more fat in the abdominal region
- Pear-shaped people tend to store more body fat in the buttocks and thighs
For years, it was thought that more health risks were associated with the apple shape, but recent studies show that pear shaped bodies have an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. In other words, too much fat is harmful - especially visceral fat - no matter where it's stored.
Obesity rates are continuously rising, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Instead of focusing on which fruit we most resemble, it's time to start eating more of them! Regardless of our body shape, exercise, going to the doctor regularly and eating a balanced diet are the best ways to achieve optimal health.