Archive for Wednesday, March 3, 1999

BODY FAT DISTRIBUTION SAYS A LOT ABOUT LONG-TERM HEALTH

March 3, 1999

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Does location of body fat make a difference in relation to your risk for chronic diseases?

Research suggests that the location of body fat is an important factor in health risks for adults. Excess fat in the abdomen (stomach area) is a greater health risk than excess fat in the hips and thighs. Extra fat in the abdomen is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, early heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Smoking and too much alcohol increase abdominal fat and the risk for diseases related to obesity. Vigorous exercise helps reduce abdominal fat and decrease the risk for these diseases. The easiest way to check your body fat distribution is to measure around your waistline with a tape measure and compare this with the measure around your hips or buttocks to see if your abdomen is larger. If you are in doubt, you may wish to seek advice from a health professional.

I know that I need to lose weight. Any suggestions on how to do it?

If you want to lose weight, do so slowly and steadily. A reasonable goal is 1/2 to 1 pound a week until you reach your goal. Avoid crash weight-loss diets that severely restrict calories or the variety of foods. Extreme approaches to weight loss, such as self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives, amphetamines, or diuretics, are not appropriate and can be dangerous to your health.

To reduce caloric intake, eat less fat and control portion sizes. If you are not physically active, spend less time in sedentary activities such as watching television, and be more active throughout the day. As people lose weight, the body becomes more efficient at using energy and the rate of weight loss may decrease. Increased physical activity will help you to continue losing weight and to avoid gaining it back.

To decrease calorie intake

  • Eat a variety of foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients.
  • Eat less fat and fewer high-fat foods.
  • Eat smaller portions and limit second helpings.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat pasta, rice, breads and cereals without fats and sugars added in preparation or at the table.
  • Eat less sugar and fewer sweets (like candy, cookies, cakes, soda).
  • Drink less or no alcohol.

What should I know about children and weight?

Children need enough food for proper growth. To promote growth and development and prevent becoming overweight, teach children to eat grain products; vegetables and fruits; low-fat milk products or other calcium-rich foods; beans, lean meat, poultry, fish or other protein-rich foods; and to participate in vigorous activity.

Limiting television time and encouraging children to play actively in a safe environment are helpful steps.

Although limiting fat intake may help prevent excess weight gain in children, fat should not be restricted for children younger than 2 years of age. Helping overweight children to achieve a healthy weight along with normal growth requires more caution. Modest reductions in dietary fat, such as the use of low-fat milk rather than whole milk, are not hazardous. However, major efforts to change a child's diet should be accompanied by monitoring of growth by a health professional at regular intervals.

-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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