Despite their frequent use by doctors and healthcare providers, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) are outdated, poor markers for overall health. As we have written before, individuals who are overweight but fit tend to have better health outcomes than those who are normal weight and less fit.
In addition, it is well accepted that overweight individuals whose adipose is mostly subcutaneous have better health outcomes than those who have more visceral adipose (also referred to as liver fat, “belly” fat, or the dreaded “apple shape”).
Now, a new study suggests some of this may be under genetic control, and those genes may help determine our risk for disease.
The study used genetic sequencing combined with MRI quantification of visceral fat to help determine risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in over 500,000 subjects. They found seven specific genes that were associated with increased risk of obesity but with higher subcutaneous fat and lower visceral fat. These individuals consequently had better health outcomes with lower risk of disease.
The authors concluded, therefore, that where we carry our fat is more important than the absolute amount, and much of that determination is under genetic control.
This gives us even more reason to pay less attention to the scale and more attention to our overall healthy lifestyle habits. And remember, just because our genes may make it more or less likely that we have visceral fat, that does not mean it is all beyond our control. Healthy lifestyle practices including low-carb diets (with or without intermittent fasting) and regular exercise can help reduce visceral fat and improve our overall health.
So throw out your scale, hit the gym, and cook up one of our delicious low-carb recipes!
Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher MD FACC