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Prairie Fare: Belly-busting Girdles May Benefit Appearance, Not Health

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Studies show that excess visceral fat, or “belly fat,” places you at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and dementia.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Sure, I’ll have a sample of white tea,” I said to the salesman at an evening event. He filled my cup to the brim.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was spiked with caffeine. I should have gotten a clue when the salesman referred to it as an “energy drink.”

I was so energized I couldn’t sleep that night no matter how many times I told myself to fall sleep. Bleary-eyed, I wandered into our living room and turned on the TV.

When I grew tired of watching reruns from the 1970s, I began watching infomercials. As I flipped through the stations, various diets and exercise devices were being hyped, just in time for spring.

At about 2 a.m., I began watching an infomercial about a corsetlike “shaper” undergarment designed to mold you into a slimmer shape. I was hoping to be bored to sleep.

A series of women modeled unflattering knit tops. The models lamented about their tummy and back bulges to a sympathetic host who measured their waist circumferences and announced them on national TV.

I certainly hope they were paid well.

Then they put on the tight undergarments and were measured again. They had shrunk by 4 or 5 inches and their ramrod-straight posture was quite amazing. They appeared to be able to breathe, too.

Instead of being bored, I ended up thinking about waist circumferences and body mass index and their role in health.

Studies have shown that excess visceral fat, or “belly fat,” places you at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and dementia.

Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, respectively, often are used to determine weight status and body fat distribution. BMI may overestimate body fat in athletes and underestimate body fat in older people.

Do you have a calculator and a tape measure or length of string and a ruler? Try these techniques that are used in research to estimate weight status and risk for certain diseases. Visit with a health-care professional to assess your overall health, though.

Use a calculator to determine your BMI: Multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Then divide the total by your height in inches. Divide this total by your height in inches (again).

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Despite the widespread use of BMI, however, some researchers have reported that waist circumference may be more important for determining your risk of disease and premature death than your BMI.

Use a tape measure or a length of string and ruler to measure your waist circumference. Place the tape measure around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone. Be sure the tape is snug but does not compress your skin. Keep it parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and measure. If using a string, measure the length of string corresponding to your waist circumference using a ruler.

In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, men with waist circumferences of 40 inches or more and women with waists measuring 35 inches or more were at higher risk of dying prematurely.

If either of the activities was an eye-opener, don’t rely on a “girdle” for slimming purposes. Let the warmer spring weather inspire you to get more physical activity, such as walking. Pay attention to your portion sizes and the calorie content of your favorite foods.

Here’s a tasty salad to go with a grilled burger or chicken breast. For more information about nutrition and fitness, visit http://www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart and http://www.walknd.com.

Broccoli-raisin Salad

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

3/4 c. low-fat mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. sugar

6 c. chopped broccoli

1 c. raisins

1 medium peeled and diced red onion

4 cooked and crumbled bacon slices (optional)

Mix lemon juice, mayonnaise and sugar. Add other ingredients and mix. Chill for at least two hours.

Makes eight servings. With bacon, each serving has 230 calories, 27 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 13 g of fat, 3 g of fiber and 310 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Without the bacon, each serving has 180 calories, 27 g of carbohydrate, 8 g of fat, 3 g of fiber and 220 mg of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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