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The shocking increase in visceral fat as we age

The latest analysis of Bodyscan data is now matched for three age categories (18-29, 30-49 and 50-plus) as well as All Ages (the entire data set). (Note: The median age of all Bodyscan clients, male and female, is 38, and the majority of clients fall into the 30-49 age range.)

From experience, we have always known that the full data set held pretty well for clients up to age 50. It was only beyond 50 or even 55 that the percentile-matching seemed to diverge with any significance, and then chiefly in relation to fat and visceral fat. Today we tend to use the All Ages data for all clients under 50.

But crunching the numbers revealed a truly shocking increase in visceral fat for clients over 50, particularly for women. You can view the full tables of Variation of Key Indicators between Age Ranges in men and women, from which the images below are excerpts, on the Bodyscan Data page.

Visceral fat changes in Men over 50 compared to All Ages
Visceral fat changes in Women over 50 compared to All Ages

From the Bodyscan data:

  • On average, men over the age of 50 carry 53% more visceral fat than men of all ages, and 200% more than men under 30.
  • For women, the results are much worse: Women over 50 have 91% more visceral fat than women of all ages, and 265% more than women under 30.

With visceral fat linked to type-2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other serious diseases, this data is a very loud wake-up call for all of us (especially over-50s, like me) and it is in line with formal studies (like this one by Hunter, Gower and Kane) that found even higher increases (up to 400%) in female visceral fat.

Of course, the Bodyscan data also shows that it doesn’t have to be this way. The best results in older clients show healthily low levels of all fat, including visceral, often better than for clients many years their junior.

The new year is an obvious time for alarm bells to register and resolutions to be made, but a healthier lifestyle is just that – a sustainable, long-term habit of more exercise and sensible eating. Not a flash-in-the-pan effort you keep up for a week or two.

Rather than plagiarise or paraphrase, here are three points verbatim from the 2010 Hunter, Gower and Kane study that would be worth us all (especially us maturer folk) taking on board. At Bodyscan we know from experience they are all true.

  • “participation in exercise can slow the age-related shift in visceral fat
  • “increased risk of chronic metabolic disease with age may be greatly reduced if visceral fat gain is eliminated, or at least decreased
  • “it can be argued that a combined program of aerobic and resistance training would be valuable for enhancement of fat distribution, decreasing risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, as well as maintaining a high quality of life”

Whenever you commit to your healthier lifestyle (today would be good), the improvement in your DEXA results is a great motivational tool to keep it going. Remember that visceral fat responds very quickly to diet and exercise, so even small changes can help us live more comfortably as we age.

Phil Chant
Bodyscan Director