In a new study published in Radiology, German researchers have proclaimed that they can use MRI and MR spectroscopy imaging to actually predict who will benefit most from lifestyle changes. The answer involves how much intra-abdominal and liver fat you have.
The scientists performed MRI scans on 243 (99 men, mean age 47 years, and 144 women, mean age 44 years) before and after nine months of a healthy lifestyle-intervention program, with a goal of shedding 5 percent of original body weight. The participants reduced their fat intake to no more than 30 percent of total calories, and walked at least three hours per week while generally engaging in moderate physical activity each day.
All of the study subjects were considered at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. They had a BMI of 27 or greater, impaired glucose tolerance and/or a first-degree relative with type 2 diabetes. In addition to the MRI scans, researchers also measured insulin sensitivity, since people who have type 2 diabetes don’t respond appropriately to insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is crucial to glucose metabolism).
After nine months in the healthier lifestyle program, scientists found that:
* 71% of the men and 58% of the women experienced improved insulin sensitivity, and along with this they shed lots of intra-abdominal fat (19% reduced in women, 20% in men), and liver fat (35% reduced in women, 44% in men), while the overall body weight decreased by 3-5%.
* The study subjects who fared the best with shedding fat started out with lower baseline levels of intra-abdominal and liver fat.
* Participants who did not experience an improvement in insulin sensitivity dropped much smaller amounts of intra-abdominal fat (4% reduced in women, 6% in men), while men shed 15% of their liver fat and women actually gained 22% more liver fat.
Here are some take-home messages to help guide you on your quest to live your best healthy lifestyle:
1. It’s not just how fat you are, but it’s where the fat is at that counts. Fat that is carried primarily on the lower half of the body (hips, thighs, buttocks), is metabolically different than intra-abdominal and liver fat. Excessive inner belly fat is highly associated with a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It is also associated with an increased level of inflammation, which is often a precursor to these medical conditions.
2. Mind your middle. Grab a tape measure right now and whip it around your tummy across your belly button. Your goal is to keep your waist size under 35" for women, and below 40" if you’re a guy. Want to know if you’ve got too much inner belly fat? First, look in the mirror. If you’re more apple shaped (versus pear shape), you may have too much intra-abdominal fat. Second, lay down on your back on a flat surface. Intra-abdominal fat doesn’t move since it’s wedged underneath your abdominal muscle. Simply look down and if your belly is protruding like you’re pregnant (this includes you guys), then you have excessive inner belly fat. If you have a normal amount of inner belly fat, you should be pretty flat across your pelvic bones.
3. Practice girth control. Clearly, the best way to manage your intra-abdominal fat is to prevent weight gain in the first place. It becomes much easier to pack on the pounds inside your abdomen after the age of 40. If you’ve already accumulated fat inside your abdomen, here’s how to get rid of it:
* Consistent, intense exercise: Combine daily 30 or more minutes accrued of aerobic activity with intervals of intensity, along with weight lifting 2 x week. You need both. The aerobic activity with intensity intervals will prompt intra-abdominal fat cells to release their fat fuel and decrease the fat load. The weight lifting increases your ability to burn calories faster and more efficiently.
* Strategic nutrition: Most Americans consume between 400-600 grams of carbs daily, mostly processed junk. Try to limit your carbs to no more than about 200 grams per day. Eliminate junk carbs (processed foods, white carbs — white bread, pasta, rice, potato) and prioritize whole foods such as veggies, watery fruits and whole grains, along with lean protein sources. Control your portions, keeping your total daily caloric intake appropriate for either weight reduction or maintenance.
4. People are different. This study does underscore the fact that people are indeed very different. We have unique family histories, medical experiences, body shapes and fat distributions.
This answer should not be considered medical advice...This answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.
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