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You can have a healthy weight but still be overfat, a condition in which people have more than the normal amount of the visceral fat that surrounds the liver, pancreas and intestines and puts one – including people who are thin — at risk of diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle disorders.
Globally, up to 5.5 billion (76%) people are overfat, estimates a new study released this week. This number is far higher than the tally of ‘underfat’ people (9-10%).
The research — published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health — highlights how being overfat affects one’s health.
Based on a new look into current available data, the researchers argue that, in addition to those who are overweight and obese, those falling in the overfat category include normal-weight people.
Men with 25% or more of body fat, and women with 32% or more are generally labelled ‘overfat’.
Here’s how it works.
The human body has lean body mass and fat. Lean body mass consists of muscles, organs, bones, body fluids etc, and fat is generally found underneath the skin and around organs.
Belly fat can be of two types — subcutaneous or visceral.
Subcutaneous fat is more external; it is the visceral fat around organs such as the liver, pancreas and kidneys that is cause for concern, say health experts.
“It’s worse for Indians because, as South-East Asians, we are more prone to metabolic syndromes than Caucasians. Our body fat distribution is such that most of the fat is lying around the belly, and this kind of fat leads to slower metabolic rates and associated problems,” says Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant of internal medicine at New Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital.
“Excess visceral fat could indicate hormonal imbalances, and affected people may have high levels of hormones like estrogen, cortisol and insulin, which over a period can lead to diabetes and other diseases,” says Dr Ambrish Mithal, chairman of the division of endocrinology and diabetes at Medanta, the Medicity in Gurgaon.
What you eat, when you eat and how you eat, along with how physically active you are, makes all the difference.
“The problem of overfat is commonly seen in people who consume too much alcohol, sugar in various forms such as canned juices and aerated drinks, and eat too much processed food. The wrong eating patterns along with a lack of adequate physical activity can cause hormonal imbalances and predispose a person to acquiring belly fat,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla.
Khosla recently saw a patient who had a normal body mass index (BMI) but excess bad fat.
“There is no shortcut to reducing bad body fat levels; healthy eating and exercise needs to be adopted as a way of life. I always tell people to have one meal a day of only fruits and vegetables. Cereals should not be eaten to fill up, but rather in small portions,” she adds.
“Ideally, cereals should be had before sunset and latest by 7 pm, to maintain a healthy metabolism. Never adopt fad diets, but rather opt for mindful eating.”
People who strictly watch their calorie consumption forget that it is not only about how many calories one consumes a day but also about what the calories comprise.
“You may be consuming 1,200 kcal a day but the ingredients may be low on micronutrients and high on saturated carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. It’s good to sensitise yourself about what you are eating and what your body needs,” says nutritionist Neha Arora.