Obese and non-obese people with belly fat are more likely to die early than obese and non-obese folks with fat distributed all over their bodies, according to a new study.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Nov. 10, the study found, "Persons with normal-weight central obesity had the worst long-term survival."
Researchers analyzed information from over 15,000 people between the ages of 18 to 90 who were part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, CBS News reports.
"This idea that central obesity might be related to health issues is not new," lead study author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic told CBS News. "It's been proposed for a number of years.
"However, for all that time, it has been the assumption that if somebody has central obesity, the person is very likely obese. But in this study, we actually proved that a person can be centrally obese and have normal [body mass index] and that person is at a greater risk for serious health problems."
This may be because belly fat (central obesity) is linked to visceral fat, which covers internal organs. In contrast, subcutaneous fat, which sits under the skin, may actually have health benefits.
"It's not just the fat you can see when your 'spare tire' rolls over your pant line," Dr. Daniel Neides of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic said. "But it's actually the fat that is deposited within the abdomen and it really covers the organs within the abdominal cavity."