Earlier this week I attended a speech by Dr. Robert Lustig. He’s a pediatric neuroendocronologist (studying how our metabolic hormones affect our brains), author, researcher and speaker who is spreading the word about our broken food system and all the scientific evidence that shows how eating too much added sugar is linked to diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
I left the event excited and inspired by all I learned and impressed with his ability to transform complicated scientific and technical information into a form a general audience could relate to and understand. Concepts he was really hitting hard were the dangers of fructose and its role in fatty liver disease and cognitive decline (more on this in a later post) as well as the danger of visceral adipose fat (or the fat around our liver and abdominal organs). According to Lustig its our waist, not our weight, that matters.
It has long been recognized that our body mass index (BMI) can predict our likelihood of morbidity (illness) and mortality (death). The higher our BMI, the more at risk we are for numerous chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. However, more and more science is revealing that it’s where our fat is stored that makes the difference. This is where waist circumference comes into the picture, since the fat surrounding our liver and other abdominal organs, aka visceral abdominal fat, is very metabolically active. It releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents, and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Its associated with cardiovascular and metabolic disorders including insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hypertension and several cancers.
Lustig's take home message was that being “thin” is not a safeguard against metabolic syndrome. I can be as tall and weigh the same as my best friend and therefore have the same BMI, but if I store my weight in my abdomen and she in her hips I am most at risk. So where do we go from here? Well, let’s get to know our numbers! Diagnosis of metabolic dysfunction includes measurements of cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure and waist circumference*. For your best health, your waist should measure no more than 102 cm (40 in) in men and 88 cm (35 in) in women. A lower waist circumference cutpoint (eg, 90 cm [35 inches] in men and 80 cm [31 inches] in women) appears to be appropriate for Asian Americans.
Look forward to more posts on this topic and changes we can make help our belts cinch a little tighter. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Lustig’s research, here’s the link to his YouTube video that went viral a few years back. He was also interviewed in the amazing documentary that was recently released called Fed Up. And he’s in a current PBS series now called Sweet Revenge. He and his team at UCSF also created an awesome website sugarscience.org that has a resource kit and tons of user-friendly info. Spread the word!!
* To measure your waist circumference start at the top of your hip bone, then bring the tape measure all the way around, level with your belly button. Make sure it's not too tight and that it's straight. Don't hold your breath while measuring.
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!