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The Health Risks of
Visceral Obesity

by Jeffrey Reinhardt, M.Sc.

If you are carrying a lot of fat around your gut, you could be at risk for Metabolic Syndrome--which can lead to Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes. The good news is studies show there is now a new phytochemical that may be of help.

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The incidence of abdominal or visceral obesity is at historic high levels--and growing. The attendant health impacts and associated costs are enormous. Syndrome X, now called Metabolic Syndrome, was first described in 1988 by Dr. Gerald Reaven at Stanford University Medical School as being characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, pre-diabetic glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This condition frequently progresses to Type 2 Diabetes, elevated blood lipid profiles, and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.
In the intervening 20 years since Dr. Reaven characterized this syndrome, overweight, obesity, hyperlipidemias and metabolic syndrome have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Worldwide, obesity has increased dramatically across all age ranges, educational levels, socio-economic strata, and ethnic groups in both first- and second-world countries.  In other industrialized countries, between 20-30% of the middle-aged population exhibits signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
Visceral obesity is of particular concern because it is directly linked to metabolic syndrome--with its poorly controlled levels of blood sugar and dysinsulinemia leading to hyperglycemia, elevated blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipid profiles.  Adolescents, middle-aged people, and seniors can develop metabolic syndrome. People over 40 are at increased risk for more serious conditions, which develop as metabolic syndrome progresses. These conditions include atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, heart attack, Type 2 Diabetes with peripheral vascular and circulatory complications, and stroke.
In the United States, metabolic syndrome is defined as abdominal or visceral obesity with a waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women, together with two or more of the following risk factors:
* Serum triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or above
* HDL-cholesterol of 40 mg/dL or lower in men or 50 mg/dL or lower in women
* Fasting blood glucose of 110 mg/dL or more
* Insulin resistance
* Blood pressure of 130/85 or higher
Over 50 million Americans are affected by visceral obesity and metabolic syndrome with the associated metabolic risk factors. With visceral obesity as a contributing factor, metabolic syndrome can progress to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
The abdominal fat contribution to metabolic syndrome is a two-part issue because abdominal fat is comprised of two different metabolic types of fat. Each type of fat is carried in different locations in the torso. The fat that accumulates under the skin is called subcutaneous fat; it may be unsightly, but this type of fat provides insulation and is relatively benign. The hidden, "ticking time bomb" is the dense visceral fat, located deep inside the abdomen, surrounding the intra-abdominal organs.
Visceral fat is of particular concern because progressive accumulation is a cause of insulin resistance, which is one of the early metabolic factors leading to the development of metabolic syndrome. Visceral fat cells are not dormant; they are metabolically active and produce a variety of peptide hormones, like angiotensin, and inflammatory cytokines such as C-reactive protein and Interleukin-6 that act on other cells in distant locations to produce inflammation. Even moderate increases in visceral fat can produce measurable and clinically relevant inflammation of the endothelial cells lining all blood vessels.
Eating an unhealthy diet with an excess of calories and consuming too much sugar or too many simple carbohydrates, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, contribute to both weight gain and accumulation of visceral fat. Maintaining optimal weight with a sensible diet of wholesome, nutritious foods and moderate daily exercise is an important part of minimizing the build up of visceral fat and the development of metabolic syndrome.
Additional success in the life-long commitment to minimize visceral fat and weight gain can be achieved with the flavonoid called Glabridin, which is isolated from the roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra L., a plant with thousands of years of a history of safe use and effectiveness. Glabridin is a potent antioxidant phytochemical; chemically, it is known as a flavonoid molecule that is part of a larger family of plant-derived polyphenols.
Both animal research and two controlled human, clinical studies have demonstrated the reliability of Glabridin as a safe and effective approach to inhibit the accumulation of excess body fat--especially visceral fat. The human clinical studies have documented that Glabridin may reduce body weight, decrease waist circumference and mobilize visceral fat while acting to regulate and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Research conducted in two different strains of laboratory mice, used as models of human diabetes and obesity, has shown that Glabridin reduces the accumulation of visceral fat and down regulates the fat-forming enzymes in the abdominal fat tissue; in addition, Glabridin stimulates the activity of lipolytic or fat burning enzymes in the liver.
The placebo-controlled, double-blind human studies have confirmed and extended the results of the experiments performed in the mouse models. Glabridin reduced the amounts of visceral fat, as confirmed by sophisticated dual-energy X-ray scans, produced reductions of body weight gain, and decreased body fat.
Glabridin is the result of over a decade of research and development, culminating in the acceptance of Glabridin (as a standardized extract from Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) as a new dietary ingredient by the Food and Drug Administration. In combination with a healthy diet and moderate, daily exercise, Glabridin helps to maintain optimal body weight and promotes healthy fat metabolism, eliminating the consequences of visceral fat accumulation and the ravages of metabolic syndrome. Thus, Glabridin may play a significant role in the quest for longevity, and contribute to achieving greater vitality and healthy aging.

Jeffrey Reinhardt, M.Sc., is the Chief Science Officer for Vitamin Research Products. This article was reprinted with permission. You can learn more about their product Glabrinex™ on their website www.vrp.com or call 800-877-2447.

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