NEW ORLEANS - When it comes to body fat, location makes a big difference.
Belly fat and thigh fat are not equal when it comes to health.
And one type of fat can seriously hurt the entire body, including your mood. But there is a supplement that can help.
Your friends call it a beer belly, fitness expert Mackie Shilstone calls it VAT for visceral abdominal tissue, your doctor calls it dangerous.
"So if you can touch a person's abdomen and it feels firm, don't fool yourself. That's not muscle. That is the worst kind of fat," said Dr. Henri Roca, Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at Greenwich Hospital.
It's called the omentum. It's underneath the muscle, close to the organs.
"Essentially that person has developed an entirely new organ. That fat has taken on a life of its own and is producing its own hormones and its own molecules of inflammation," he explained.
That inflammation is in the cells and the entire body, causing ongoing damage.
"That inflammation will go and it will dysregulate insulin. It can actually go up into the brain and produce depression. It goes throughout the arteries and produces the openings in the arteries for cholesterol to be deposited, ultimately producing heart attacks and strokes. It can turn on cancer. It can turn on autoimmune processes," said Dr. Roca, who is also on the faculty of LSU Health Sciences Center.
Doctors say VAT is sabotaging your health through diabetes and even sabotaging your ability to lose weight. More omentum fat means less of a chemical that reduces stress and inflammation, and that interrupts another hormone that controls hunger.
But there is help to your diet and exercise weight loss efforts with omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oil. It could help fight the inflammation, make your insulin work better and when taken by pregnant women, it could help prevent obesity in that child.
Unlike fat on the thighs, fat released from the belly area is more dangerous because it quickly goes to the liver to be processed and then to the arteries causing clogs.
Dr. Roca is a board-certified family physician by the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Board of Holistic and Integrative Medicine. He serves on the board of directors for the American Holistic Medical Association and as co-chair for the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine’s Education Working Group. Dr. Roca is on the clinical faculty of Yale University School of Medicine and LSU School of Medicine, where he founded LSU’s Integrative Medicine section.