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Hour-Glass or Belly Fat: Body Shape as Destiny

According to Dr. Elizabeth Cashdan, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Utah, women who have hour- glass figures (storing fat primarily in their hips) are more sexual and less athletic than those who are shaped like men and store fat primarily in their bellies (Cultural Anthropology, December 2008). Women who are shaped like hour-glasses have wider hips and narrower bellies because they have more of the female hormone, estrogen; and less of the stress hormone, cortisol and the male hormone, testosterone. Dr. Cashdan proposes that women who are protected by men may not be as stressed as those who have to provide for themselves and their children, and therefore have lower levels of cortisol. Testosterone and cortisol cause fat to be deposited in the belly, while estrogen causes it to be deposited in the hips.

Women who are stronger and more competitive have bigger bellies because they have more masculinizing hormones that make them aggressive. Women who are more fertile, have more babies, and are more sexual tend to have more estrogen and therefore bigger hips and smaller bellies. In societies that stress fertility and having lots of children, men seem to prefer women who have hour glass-like figures. In societies where women are more independent and have to get their own food and depend on themselves to survive, they are more likely to be shaped like men with a higher waist to hip ratio. She says: "In Japan, Greece and Portugal, where women tend to be less economically independent, men place a higher value on a thin waist than men in [countries such as] Britain or Denmark, where there tends to be more sexual equality."


Reports from

Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X -- see the question below)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I avoid nuts since they contain so much fat?

Nuts are concentrated sources of fat and calories, but they are high in monounsaturated fats which are healthful. A new study from Spain shows that adding nuts to a Mediterranean diet helps to reverse Metabolic syndrome, defined as having three or more of the following: 1) abdominal obesity, 2) high triglycerides, 3) low HDL (good) cholesterol, 4) high blood sugar and 5) high blood pressure. More than 20 percent of North Americans have metabolic syndrome and are at high risk for diabetes. Many of these people will die prematurely, usually from a heart attack.

This study involved 1,200 men and women from 55 to 80 who followed one of three diets for one year. Sixty-one percent of the study group had metabolic syndrome. The first group followed a low-fat diet that reduced all types of fats. The second group ate a Mediterranean diet with at least four tablespoons of olive oil a day. The third group ate the Mediterranean diet with extra nuts. At the end of the study all three groups had improved, but those eating nuts had far fewer of the factors that make up metabolic syndrome. Most did this without restricting calories or losing weight, but they were able to reduce belly fat and lower cholesterol and blood pressure (Archives of Internal Medicine, December 2008).

Fats are classified by their chemical structure into saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats found in olives, avocados and many nuts and seeds help to prevent heart attacks. Before the bad LDL cholesterol can damage arteries, it must first be oxidize in your bloodstream. LDL cholesterol made from monounsaturated fats is highly resistant to oxidation, so it helps to prevent damage to arteries that can lead to a heart attack. The diet I recommend includes plenty of the good fats found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, olives, avocados, fish and shell fish.


Yet another vitamin D deficiency study:

Researchers at USC showed that young women with normal vitamin D levels were on average taller and far less likely to be obese than their peers who were deficient in vitamin D (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, November 2008). Sixty percent of these adolescents in sun-drenched California were deficient in vitamin D, with D3 levels lower than 75 nml/L. This tells me that many teens (like adults) spend little or no time outdoors, regardless of climate, and that vitamin D deficiency is epidemic throughout our population.. I will give you an update on my personal vitamin D deficiency saga within the next few weeks.


Recipe of the Week:

Our favorite “cookie” for the holidays Fruity Pebbles

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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