Your health: Are you an apple or TOFI?

Did you know that being an apple shape, having a “little bit of a tummy”, or having a “beer belly” can increase your risk of having heart disease, blood pressure, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer?

New research shows that having a large waist, even with a healthy BMI can be a predictor of diabetes, especially in women. In a study involving men, the group with larger waist circumferences had a higher proportion of men with severe symptoms related to lower urinary tract problems as measured by the International Prostate Symptoms Score than those with smaller waists, they also had problems with sexual dysfunction.

Our bodies have various fat stores, but when someone consumes more calories or fat than they burn the result can be a build-up of a dangerous type of fat in the abdomen which also surrounds the internal organs. A person doesn’t have to be overweight to have this sort of fat surrounding their internal organs. It is thought that visceral (abdominal) fat releases proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn damages arteries and enters the liver. It also affects how the body breaks down sugars and fats.

Even if a person is not overweight, eating healthily and exercising is important because people can be what is called a ‘TOFI’ – thin outside fat inside. A person may look slim but may be storing their fat around their internal organs without it affecting their outward appearance.

Believe it or not, 1000 people a week die of obesity related diseases and the larger the waist the higher the mortality. If you tend to gain weight around your middle it’s important to increase your level of activity and watch what you eat, to help lower the risk of health problems.

To measure your waist, find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips and measure in-between these two points (for most this is around the belly button area).

Low Risk
Men: less than 94cm (37 in)
Women: less than 80cm (32 in)

High Risk
Men: 94cm – 102cm
Women: 80- 88cm

Very High Risk
Men: over 102cm (40in)
Asian men*: Over 90cm (35.5 in)
Women: over 88cm (35in)
Asian women*: Over 80cm (31.5)

*Those with an Asian background tend to have a higher proportion of body fat to muscle than the rest of the UK and tend to carry fat around the middle.

It’s important to check with your GP before making changes to your lifestyle if you have health problems.