Middle-age spread: it might not be as bad as you think | Obesity

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Name: Middle-age spread.

Age: 40+.

Appearance: Doughy, wrinkled, overspilling.

You mean old and fat? It comes to us all, inevitably.

Speak for yourself. I just joined a gym and lost 50 pounds. You lost 50 pounds by going to the gym?

No, that’s how much I spent. I haven’t actually been inside the gym. That was also sort of inevitable.

I guess I’m just doomed to spend my later years being overweight and in ill-health. One or the other, maybe, but not necessarily both.

What does that mean? You might be genetically disposed toward favourable adiposity.

I see. What does that mean? It means you could be OK, provided your middle-age spread is spread right. According to a new study, some obese people are much healthier than others, depending on where they store fat.

In the fridge? On your person, they mean.

Oh. I suppose it’s a sort of saddlebag arrangement. Why does it matter? The study suggested that obese subjects who stored fat mostly under the skin were better off than those with an identical BMI who stored fat predominantly in the liver and the pancreas.

How can I make sure all my fat is in the right place? You can’t. According to Dr Hanieh Yaghootkar, who led the research, “Some people have unlucky fat genes, meaning they store higher levels of fat everywhere, including under the skin, liver and pancreas.”

What about under my chin? That’s quite far away from my liver. If you’ve got favourable adiposity, you’re at lower risk of 12 obesity-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, coronary disease and stroke.

That’s it – I’m waddling down to that gym tomorrow and demanding my money back. Not so fast – for some conditions, obesity increases your risk no matter where the fat is stored. These include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, gallstones, psoriasis and deep vein thrombosis.

But still, middle-age spread is genetic; it’s just my metabolism slowing down. That’s not true – a study published in Science last year showed that your metabolism peaks at the age of one, but stays relatively stable from 20 to about 60.

You mean this double chin is my fault? There may be larger societal forces at work.

I’ll take that as a yes. I’m sorry.

Do say: “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, as long as you’re healthy on the inside.”

Don’t say: “There’s just more of me to love; unfortunately, it’s tightly packed around my liver.”

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