Love Handles Can Be Deadly

It’s vital that we pay attention to waist circumference rather than the numbers on a scale.

In the last few decades, the American average weight and body mass index have risen. While there has been an increase in health consciousness and attempts to get fit, the overall statistics have been getting worse. The NIH estimates that more than 66% of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese. Obesity rates, especially extreme obesity, have risen significantly since 1980.

According to a study conducted by Florida Atlantic University, the higher obesity rates are as deadly as high blood pressure or hypertension. Excess body fat, combined with other metabolic syndromes, are now considered the silent killer that we should be worried about.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of three or more risk factors, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and abnormal lipids. Metabolic syndrome is believed to affect up to 40% of adults over 40, or 33% of adults overall.

Until now, most clinics have treated the various risk factors of metabolic syndrome on their own. Obesity was approached with one form of treatment, while high blood pressure or abnormal lipids were treated another way. But now scientists are warning that the risk factors should be treated simultaneously in order to decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Visceral fat (fat around the abdomen, hips, and love handles) contributes to insulin resistance, as well as the release of free fatty acids from adipose tissue. These lipids float around the bloodstream and accumulate in other parts of the body, where they slow down organ and tissue function and further increase the risk of insulin resistance. Fatty tissue also is known to produce adipokines, which can increase cardiovascular disease risk factors and raise insulin resistance even more.

Metabolic syndrome tends to be free of symptoms at first, but the researchers stated that there is a very real risk of coronary events within 10 years. The risk increases to 16-18%, which is as high as someone who has already suffered a coronary event in the past. There is a very high chance that excess body fat leads to heart problems—potentially fatal ones—before you see your next decade.

It’s vital that we pay attention to waist circumference rather than the numbers on a scale. Body fat is the best marker for fitness or health, not how much you weigh. Once you understand that, you’ll be able to take steps to get in shape the right way. You’ll stop worrying so much about your weight and start paying attention to the real problem: your body fat. You can focus your efforts on eliminating body fat to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome.


1. Dawn Harris Sherling, Parvathi Perumareddi, Charles H. Hennekens. Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2017; 107424841668618.