The Province

Busting out at the gut

Some practical solutions for fighting against fat

- TOM KEENAN

As if the arrival of board shorts and bikini season wasn’t enough, there’s new evidence about the negative effects of carrying extra poundage on the male body.

Fortunatel­y, science is giving us some cool new tools to deal with our increasing­ly portly profiles.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation confirms that “almost 60 per cent of all Canadian adults and 26 per cent of our children and adolescent­s are overweight or obese.”

So it was no accident that the 9,300 experts who converged recently for the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting spent a lot of time talking about the obesity epidemic.

Anne Turner and her colleagues from Australia’s Deakin University may have found one of the biological roots of overeating. At the San Francisco conference she reported that, at least for obese and overweight men, the simple act of eating triggers secretion of the stress hormone cortisol.

Her numbers were impressive. “Overweight/obese men responded to food intake with a significan­t elevation (51 per cent) in salivary cortisol,” compared to a five per cent increase in lean men.

“If overweight/obese men have an elevated cortisol response every time they ingest food, they may be more susceptibl­e to the developmen­t of stress-related disease.”

There’s a sort of vicious circle at work here, because many people deal with stress by eating more.

Dr. Valerie Taylor, psychiatri­st-inchief at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, talks about the “obesity-mental illness dyad,” even suggesting a chemical associatio­n between being fat and being depressed.

“The most common biological perturbati­on associated with depression is an increase in cortisol,” she writes in an article in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

She goes on to explain that high cortisol levels tend to make the body store up fat.

Most people who are overweight or obese already know it; but if there’s any doubt, measuribod­y mass indicator (BMI) calculator at goo.gl/vc295 may be helpful.

There’s even a BMI smartphone app at that site, so you can go around being obnoxiousl­y health conscious at the office.

Of course, it might be more fun to bring a tape measure to assess your colleagues’ waist-to-hip ratio.

There’s a guide for doing that athealthca­lculators.org and some say it’s a better metric than BMI.

Knowing your Body Mass Indicator may be helpful though BMI is definitely misleading for certain body types, such as athletes with a high percentage of lean body mass. They’re liable to be pegged as overweight despite being in great shape.

Some say knowing your waist-to-hip ratio is a better metric than BMI — check out the guide for doing so at healthcalc­ulators.org.

The waist-to-hip ratio helps to sort out if you are pear shaped, with fat around the hips, or apple shaped, storing fat in the belly. Apple-shaped people generally face more health risks.

Dr. Tom Keenan is an award winning journalist, public speaker, and professor in the Faculty of Environmen­tal Design at the University of Calgary.

 ?? — HAMILTON SPECTATOR FILES ?? New studies link obese men to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It might also cause depression
— HAMILTON SPECTATOR FILES New studies link obese men to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It might also cause depression

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