Men with belly fat are ripe candidates for bone loss and decreased bone strength, says a new study. "It is important for men to be aware that excess belly fat is not only a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, it is also a risk factor for bone loss," said Miriam Bredella, radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston.
More than 37 million American men alone over 20 years are obese, according to official statistics.
Obesity is tied to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and joint diseases. Yet it was commonly accepted that men with increased body weight were at lower risk for bone loss. "Most studies on osteoporosis have focused on women. Men were thought to be relatively protected against bone loss, especially obese men," said Bredella, who and her team evaluated 35 obese men with a mean age of 34 years, according to a Massachusetts statement.
But not all body fat is the same.
Subcutaneous fat lies just below the skin, and visceral or intra-abdominal fat is located deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity. Genetics, diet and exercise are all contributors to the level of visceral fat that is stored in the body.
Excess visceral fat is considered particularly dangerous, because in previous studies it has been linked to heightened risk for heart disease. After the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study -- a multi-centre observational study designed to determine risk factors for osteoporosis -- indicated that male obesity was linked with fracture risk, the researchers wanted to quantify belly fat and study its impact on bone strength.
These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).