Visceral fat, or abdominal fat is a key factor that triggers off a variety of health and joint problems. Excessive belly fat results in more weight acting on the joints which strains and hurts the back, knees or hips. Besides this increased mechanical stress on the joints, belly fat also increases the risk of chronic inflammation in the body. This chronic inflammation can lead to the development of arthritis and other disorders.
It was once believed that belly fat just sat harmlessly in the stomach area. However, recent research indicates that belly fat is biologically active and that it increases the amount of inflammatory agents that are continuously pumped into circulation in the body. When these pro-inflammatory agents are released they cause changes throughout the entire body. The way the body responds to insulin is affected and, therefore, increases the risk of diabetes. It also increases the risk of cancer, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular diseases. The blood sugar instability that leads to diabetes is also called the Metabolic Syndrome. This syndrome causes changes in the chemical environment of the joints. Chemical changes triggered by the Metabolic Syndrome can cause degradation of cartilage, which normally protects the joints, and therefore results in joint destruction. Losing belly fat and lowering the overall body mass (BMI) helps arthritic joint pain and slows down the process of joint degeneration. Increased BMI, on the other hand, has been shown to be associated with increased incidence of knee replacement surgery, and with worse outcomes after surgery.
One of the chemical agents released by visceral fat is called Leptin. Leptin is a protein hormone that has a large impact on the body’s metabolism. High levels of Leptin, as seen with increased BMI, are associated with osteoarthritis. Tests of the synovial fluid of osteoarthritic joints usually reveal high concentrations of Leptin. Therefore, Leptin is believed to play an important role in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. Another important inflammatory marker in osteoarthritis is Interleukin-6 (Il-6), a protein, or cytokine, that is elevated in states of chronic inflammation. This cytokine, which is elevated in obese people, has also been implicated in the etiology of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Increased levels of Leptin, IL-6, and other inflammatory markers are important factors in the development of joint arthritis and poor outcome after joint surgeries.
So, to improve the health of your joints and to prevent early osteoarthritis, lose your belly fat: exercise regularly; avoid inflammatory foods like refined carbohydrates, trans-fats, or processed foods; eat more vegetables and fruits. Nutritional supplementation, especially in obese patients, may play a significant role in the modulation of osteoarthritis, and in alleviating chronic muscle, joint, and bone aches. Vitamin D supplementation, for example, has been shown to result in a significant drop of Il-6 levels.
The lesson to be learned here is that body fat can damage your joints, not only because of the increased mechanical stress, but also due to chemical reactions triggered by fat tissue. Joint pain can be reduced by losing your body fat.