New research has revealed that simply being thin, does not guarantee reduced risk of obesity or obesity related illnesses like type 2 diabetes or
heart disease. Scientists have discovered a new epidemic, ‘TOFI’ - ‘Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside.’
Researchers warn that inadequate physical activity and a poor diet mean that slim people have hidden fat, which puts them at risk for obesity and obesity related illness. While researchers are seeing this epidemic in growing numbers in children, it also affects adults. Once an imbalance of internal body fat is established, it’s hard to treat. Children affected by TOFI are more likely to become obese adults and therefore have a higher risk of disability, long-term health problems and ultimately a shorter life span.
While children and adults can appear to be height and weight proportionate according to the BMI, the numbers can be deceiving. Research shows that people classed as having a healthy BMI can carry high levels of fat, but low levels of muscle. One 8 year old boy in the study recorded a healthy BMI of 17.7 but was found to have 23% body fat combined with low muscle mass. Another child also had a BMI of 19 but actually had 28% body fat. These high percentages of fat make the children technically obese, despite not appearing overweight. People who are visibly overweight have higher amounts of subcutaneous fat than muscle. The dangerous fat in people who do not appear to be overweight is visceral fat, fat that surrounds the organs.
Visceral fat is known as the hidden killer, not only does it surround the organs, it is metabolized by the liver, into cholesterol. Once in the bloodstream, cholesterol builds up in the arteries, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease. Visceral fat also produces more hormones and proteins than subcutaneous fat. These hormones affect glucose levels, which can trigger the start of type 2 diabetes and other health issues such as cardiovascular disease. The hormones released by visceral fat are also linked to higher levels of emotional stress, poor concentration and impaired organ function.
While it is hard to treat and reduce visceral fat, early detection is key. While children are at the highest risk, other high-risk groups include people who
drink excessively, smokers and women entering menopause. Having you or your child’s correct body composition tested will let you know how serious your health
condition is and what steps need to be taken for optimal health. You can treat TOFI safely and effectively at home with diet and exercise.
Reducing or eliminating the amount of refined and processed foods you eat is the best place to start.
Although low carb diet isn’t for everyone, if you’re at risk of TOFI, starting with a low carb diet is a sure way to eliminate or minimize the biggest culprit… sugar. If you do nothing but reduce your sugar and refined carb intake alone, it should greatly improve your metabolism. By increasing your metabolism you’ll be able to burn off more of the dangerous visceral fat.
In addition to fixing your diet, exercise is also an effective way to increase your metabolism. Incorporating an effective exercise program not only helps you burn more fat and build lean muscle, but it also reduces stress (which also helps burn fat) and improves cognitive functioning.
The ultimate solution to TOFI is eating a diet largely composed of whole foods and low in refined sugar and carbs, along with an easy to follow exercise regimen that can be maintained for the long term. This is why starting out with exercises that you only need to do for 10 - 15 minutes at a time is best. This way it doesn’t seem as daunting to have to work out for an hour of more. Plus, if you’re doing the right exercises the right way you can get as much (if not more) benefit from doing 10 - 15 minutes of exercise as you can doing 60 minutes or more.