For many years it was believed that excess body fat protected against bone loss, but researchers have found that having too much internal abdominal fat can, in fact, have a damaging effect on bone health.
"Now we know that abdominal obesity needs to be included as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone loss," warned researcher Miriam A. Bredella, from Harvard Medical School.
Bredella noted that while obesity is associated with many health problems, it was commonly accepted that women with increased body weight were at lower risk for bone loss. She explained that not all body fat is the same. Subcutaneous fat lies just below the skin, and visceral or intra-abdominal fat is located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity. Genetics, diet and exercise are all contributors to the level of visceral fat that is stored in the body.
Bredella set out to evaluate the abdominal subcutaneous, visceral and total fat, as well as bone marrow fat and bone mineral density, in 50 premenopausal women with an average BMI of 30.
Examinations revealed that women with more visceral fat had decreased bone mineral density. There was no significant correlation between both subcutaneous fat and bone mineral density. "Our results showed that having a lot of belly fat is more detrimental to bone health than having more superficial fat or fat around the hips," Bredella said.
While bone loss is more common in women, Bredella and her co-researchers are currently conducting a study to determine whether belly fat is also a risk factor for bone loss in men.
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Source: Radiological Society of North America