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What Your Waist Size Means to Your Health

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Connecting the Dots between a Bulging Waistline and the Risk of Premature Death

In its November 2008 issue, the New England Journal of Medicine published research that tracked nearly 360,000 men and women in nine European countries for nearly ten years. The results provide evidence that a bulging waistline is a stronger predictor of premature death than one’s overall weight.
It is called apple-shaped weight deposition. Carrying your excess weight around your middle is correlated with insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control, acne, polycystic ovarian syndrome, male pattern baldness, and fatty liver—all conditions that comprise the complex of symptoms known as Syndrome X. Adipose tissue is better termed “an organ” that produces hormones which affect the entire body. Syndrome X is considered a fast track to the development of type II diabetes.
The current medical approach of treating the respective symptoms individually, e.g., one pill for high cholesterol and another pill for high blood pressure, gets uniformly poor results in the long run. Researchers like Colorado State University’s Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, find their research falls on deaf ears in a medical system devoted to treatments relying solely on prescriptions and procedures. There is no concerted public health effort to adopt this message, even though the fastest growing group of type II diabetics is U.S. teenagers. A study conducted by the Lewin Group paid for by Novo Nordisk A/S, a Danish pharmaceutical firm, has pegged the total cost of diabetes at $218 billion annually in the U.S. How can we continue to ignore the benefit of addressing the signs and symptoms of type II diabetes in an integrative fashion?
The Tennessee Medicaid system was convinced to reimburse chromium supplementation as a means of dealing with insulin resistance, which underlies the medical conditions that consume billions of dollars in the treatment of chronic disease. Chromium is only one piece of a multifactoral lifestyle approach to dealing with Syndrome X.
Integrative medicine effectively treats the bulging waistline and its healthcare consequences because it treats the whole person rather than just the consequences of carrying excess weight around the middle. While this study ended with the traditional call for more money for more study (on whether treatment for weight problems should concentrate on preventing increases in waist size rather than holding down weight overall), perhaps the money is better spent on ways to implement integrative health practices in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

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