It’s Men’s Health Month, which is a time set aside to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease.
And with Father’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about a widely believed health myth that could be very damaging to the health of you or the men in your life.
Fat but Fit
In 1998, the NIH published guidelines that noted that being overweight but in good physical health would reduce the risk of premature death — in other words, being physically fit mattered more than body fat percentage.
However, recent research suggests that the “fat but fit” theory isn’t true. A 2015 study of 1.3 million men found that the beneficial effects of exercise declined as obesity rates increased. Compared to physically fit obese men, normal-weight men who were not physically fit had a lower risk of death.
Another 2015 study holds the key. This study identified a link between increased levels of fat in the body — regardless of physical fitness — and high levels of inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of all disease, especially chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, abdominal obesity, which is fat centralized in the belly, is a sign of high levels of visceral fat in the body. Visceral fat is the type of fat that accumulates in arteries and around organs, and has been credited with increased inflammation and disease risk.
Getting Rid of Excess Weight
Exercise will always remain an important aspect of good health, but here are some additional ways to protect against the dangers of excess weight:
1. Assess body fat with a BIA rather than a BMI: At present, obesity is defined by body mass index (BMI), which is essentially a height-to-weight ratio. A bioelectrial impedance assessment (BIA) allows a more comprehensive look at body composition, assessing lean body mass, body fat, and body water percentages, as well as showing where primary fat stores exist. Monitoring your body fat with a BIA rather than relying on a BMI will help you better assess your overall health and weight management goals.
2. Take a high-quality probiotic: Research continues to identify the gut flora as a contributing factor to multiple aspects of health, including weight management and inflammation levels. Unfortunately, the typical American diet often leads to imbalances in the microbiota of the gut, favoring the development of intestinal inflammation and increased risk of disease. A high-quality daily probiotic can help promote healthy bacteria in the gut. (But watch out for sugary junk food with probiotic claims).
3. Eat a clean, nutrient-rich, whole-foods diet: No matter your dietary preference, whole foods are best. Strive to consume a wide variety of organically or locally sourced vegetables and low-sugar fruits. Enjoy a mix of lean proteins from animal sources along with plant-based proteins that are high in fiber, like quinoa. Keep sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods out of your diet. These foods contribute to toxins in the body and negatively impact healthy gut microbiota.
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The full article, in an altered form, originally appeared on Fox News, where I am a regular contributor.