Reducing body fat in certain body parts may cut risk of 13 cancers

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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When it comes to our lifespan, what determines it could feel beyond our control. Certainly genetics can play a part. However, there are other factors that can influence how long we are likely to live.

As expected, weight is one such factor with being overweight or obese a risk for many dangerous conditions.

However, one expert says the location of that extra weight on your body is even more deadly.

Lead GP for digital men’s health clinic Numan, Doctor Luke Pratsides, explained: “Avoiding excess weight around the middle of the body, belly fat and also fat behind the belly, around the abdominal organs, known as visceral fat, is important.

“This fat secretes hormones that increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.”

He stated that having too much visceral fat can raise the risk of multiple cancers.

“A lot of people don’t realise that this excess weight also increases the chance of around 13 different types of cancer,” he said.

“Oesophageal, stomach, liver and kidney cancer are between two and four times more likely in those who are overweight or obese.”

According to Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese raises the risk of the following cancers:

  • Breast (in women after the menopause)
  • Bowel
  • Womb
  • Oesophageal (food pipe)
  • Pancreatic
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Upper stomach (gastric cardia)
  • Gallbladder
  • Ovarian
  • Thyroid
  • Myeloma (a type of blood cancer)
  • Meningioma (a type of brain tumour).

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How to reduce visceral fat

Dr Pratsides said: “Whilst exercise plays a role in weight loss the biggest contributor is diet.

“Reducing highly processed foods, both plant and animal-based that have been significantly altered from their original form, cutting out refined sugar and reducing alcohol will all help reduce this central body weight.”

It is not possible to know exactly how much visceral fat you have without imaging tests, however, you can get a rough idea by measuring your waist circumference with the belly button as a marker.

For women 35 inches or more can signal visceral fat and for men it’s 40 inches or more.

Benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle

Dr Pratsides also recommended following a certain lifestyle to boost your life expectancy.

He added: “There’s no doubt that eating healthily and regular exercise will improve your life expectancy. However, there is a lot more to living a long healthy and enjoyable life.

“Research from the Greek island of Ikaria has challenged the common perception that people in the Mediterranean live long active lives because they simply eat a healthy diet. The findings suggested that life purpose, conviviality and stress reduction were also key.

“Life purpose can vary for the individual from simply wanting to care for grandchildren or supporting others in the community to having high-powered job roles.

“Essentially waking up most days and having something that you know you are going to do that you value and enjoy.

“Conviviality, in this sense, includes having a partner or companion, avoiding isolation, maintaining strong family ties and participating in social groups with common interests.

“Stress reduction can be more challenging in modern western society.

“One way to do this is to try and follow a regular routine throughout the day, to help simplify life and reduce stressful unplanned events and to ensure you spend some time outside in natural light every day.”

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