Potbelly (Abnormally High Waist Circumference); Fortune Or A Disease?


On account of poor eating habits among the general population, potbelly has become increasingly common these days. More than half of the adult population of both genders have a potbelly. Whiles many individuals ignorantly attribute potbelly to fortune or “cosmetic” issues, it is in actual terms, a very high-risk factor for all kinds of chronic diseases with an inescapable increased risk of premature mortality.

What is potbelly?
Potbelly is the loose term for “abnormally high waist circumference”. Other lose terminologies include “beer belly, high waistline and spare tire” but whatever you call it, potbelly is not something you would want to develop let alone take slightly. The appropriate medical term for potbelly is either “central obesity or visceral obesity”. Technically, however, among the black ethnic persons, central obesity (potbelly) is said to have developed when for men and women, their waist circumference exceeds 102 cm and 88 cm respectively. It is an indication of abnormally high intra-abdominal fat with high susceptibility to countless health problems ranging from chronic diseases to premature deaths.

How does potbelly develop?
Potbelly is the anatomic or structural manifestation or better still the physical appearance of abnormally high intra-abdominal fat. It indicates a high deposition of fat (in the form of triglycerides) within the abdomen and around the visceral organs in the abdominal cavity. The greater your intra-abdominal fat accumulation the more prominent your potbelly is. It occurs on account in part of long-standing excess energy intake over expenditure where the excess energy is incessantly converted to fat and stored every now and then in the form of fat for a long period of time.

What cause pot belly?
From our understanding of how potbelly develops, it is clear that the main cause of potbelly is unhealthy or poor eating habits which results in the excess calorie intake over expenditure allowing the body to have no choice but to convert the excess calorie into fat and store it in the abdominal cavity. To some extent though, there is also some genetic factors underpinning the development of potbelly.

Nevertheless, potbelly would not develop in persons who have a genetic predisposition, yet, have healthy eating behavior. Owing to close-fitting working schedules coupled with high availability of “chunk foods” worsened by lack of knowledge about healthy eating and food choices coupled with a luxury lifestyle, many individuals are at inevitably an increased risk of developing potbelly.

How does “potbelly” relate to health?
Many people attribute potbelly to fortune. On the contrary, potbelly is a sign of an increased risk of development of many chronic diseases and death. First and foremost, recall that potbelly or high waistline is a sign of a primary disease referred to as visceral obesity or central obesity. Increased or high intra-abdominal fat measured by high waistline presents a serious risk to cardiovascular disease.

Several recent large cohort studies show that elevated or high intra-abdominal fat (otherwise called potbelly loosely) as indicated by a high waistline or abdominal girth is related to increased risk of premature deaths from major specific causes, including deaths from cardiovascular disease independent of your body mass index (BMI) and other existing medical illnesses. Very high waistline of over 88 cm and 102 cm in women and men respectively are connected with an approximately 2-fold higher risk of premature deaths in women and men respectively.

Besides insulin resistance, high waistline also causes abnormal levels of cholesterol and related lipids; a condition known in medical terms as dyslipidemia. Meanwhile, both insulin resistance and dyslipidemia are key modifiable cardiovascular risk factors. For this reason, persons with potbelly or central obesity (high waistline) have increased cardiovascular risk and are more likely to suffer cardiovascular diseases and deaths. They are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes which on its own is also a cardiovascular risk.

What is the normal cut-off?
For primary prevention of chronic diseases, the normal cut-off for waist circumference is 94 or less for males and 80 cm or less for female. For the secondary prevention of diseases, the cut-off is at most 102cm for men and 88 cm for women.

How can I check for my waist circumference?
The best option is to consult a Licensed and/or Registered Dietician or possibly your Physician. Nonetheless, your waist circumference is the distance around your abdominal region 2.5 cm above the umbilicus (navel). If this reading exceeds 102 cm for a man or 88 cm for a woman, you should seek medical assistance immediately.

By Amenyah Seth, Registered Dietician.
Email: semenyah3@gmail.com
Phone: +233 (0) 244 832 997
Whatsapp: +233 (0) 203 940 947

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