Belly fat could mean bone loss for men, suggests study

Nov. 29, 2012, 3:59 p.m.

New research suggests that obese men are at an increased risk of bone loss, contrary to a commonly accepted belief. (Tony Alter/Flickr Creative Commons)

Men with a too much belly fat already have to worry about plenty of health complications – and one group of researchers is saying to add bone loss to that list.

New research presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America goes against the grain of what was previously commonly accepted: that while obese men had higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and joint diseases, they were at lower risk for bone loss.

But overweight men no longer have even that consolation.

Here's what happens: "Visceral" fat is the fat that's located underneath muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity – excessive visceral fat gives people big bellies. Too much visceral fat is not good, but scientists didn't think it affected bone loss or strength.

But they were wrong: In a trial, researchers found that men with more visceral fat had "lower failure load and stiffness" – two measures of testing bone strength – than men with less visceral fat.

In a further twist, it also seems that visceral fat is the main reason for the decrease in bone strength.

"We were…surprised that obese men with a lot of visceral fat had significantly decreased bone strength compared to obese men with low visceral fat but [a] similar [body mass index]," said Dr. Miriam Bredella, a co-author on the study, in a statement.

Visceral fat doesn't have the best reputation – it was linked to low cognitive function in elderly folks earlier this year.

South L.A. has no shortage of belly fat – the latest statistics revealed that nearly 33 percent of adults are obese.

Photo by Tony Alter via Flickr Creative Commons.

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