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Stomach Size Myths vs. Facts

Friday, October 31, 2008

Questions about the use of our new portion control formula, Avantrx, suggest the public may be a bit confused about stomach size and weight gain or loss. Today's Pearl presents opinions from two Web MD experts on stomach size myths vs. facts.  
  1. Mark Moyad, MD, Director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.
  2. Joseph Levy, MD, NYU Director of Pediatric Gastroenterology.
Myth or Fact: If we cut down on food intake, we’ll eventually shrink our stomachs so we won't be so hungry.
Answer: Myth. Dr. Moyan said, "Once we become adults, our empty stomach pretty much remains the same size – unless we have surgery to intentionally make it smaller."
Myth or Fact: Thin people have naturally smaller stomachs than people who are heavy.
Answer: Myth. Dr. Levy said, "Weight has nothing to do with the size of the stomach. In fact, even people who have had stomach-reducing surgeries, making their tummy no larger than a walnut, can override the small size and still gain weight."
Myth or Fact: Exercises like sit-ups or abdominal crunches can reduce the size of your stomach.
Answer: Myth. "No exercise can change the size of an organ, but it can help burn the layers of fat that can accumulate on the outside of your body. Plus, it can help tighten the muscles in the abdomen, the area of the body lying just south of the diaphragm, that houses the stomach and many other internal organs," says Dr. Moyad.

Dr. Levy also said, "Interestingly, the part of your "belly fat" that can do you the most harm may actually be the fat you don't see. It resides in the "omentum," a kind of internal sheet that lies over and around your internal organs. People who are very overweight often have a lot of visceral fat between their organs internally. The good news: A healthy eating plan can not only help you shed the weight you can see, but also the visceral fat layers you don't see."
Myth or Fact: Eating before bed can make you gain weight faster than if you eat the same foods during the day.
Answer: Myth. Most experts agree that we gain weight when we take in more calories than we burn up. And while it seems logical that foods we eat during an active day will burn more quickly and more efficiently than foods we eat right before going to sleep, Dr. Moyad says weight gain is not based on a 24-hour clock. "It's the total amount you take in over a period of time compared to how much you burn that determines if you will gain weight. There is no science to show that eating at a specific time of the day can influence weight gain on its own." 
This myth has nothing to do with stomach size, but I found it interesting since I, too, believed I would gain less weight if I had dinner earlier rather than later.   

Important Belly Fat Facts

Belly fat becomes a bain-of-existence for most menopausal women and a large number of older men. It’s either subcutaneous fat, the noticeable layer of fat that lies just below the skin, or even worse, visceral fat, which is far more dangerous to our health. It hides beneath the stomach muscles, as you can see in the above drawing.

Visceral fat surrounds vital organs and is metabolized by the liver, which turns it into blood cholesterol. It also increases inflammatory markers associated with metabolic syndrome that precedes development of type-2 diabetes and most all degenerative disease, including the four major eye diseases, cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Visceral fat usually goes unnoticed because it’s not visible to the eye. Many experts suggest that our genes are responsible for our body's tendency to carry visceral fat. However, most all experts suggest that portion control and physical activity can play a major role in reducing the amount of both subcutaneous and visceral fat that we carry.

Tape Measurers for the Ladies

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently set the following cutoff-point to identify women who are at high risk of developing the growing number of excess weight-related diseases associated with visceral fat: Women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches are most likely carrying a very dangerous amount of visceral fat. Those with a waist circumference over 31 also need to take action to lower that number.

The bottom line: Losing belly fat is about a whole lot more than vanity. It's about preventing debilitating diseases that we don't want. We can lose belly fat by learning to eat mostly nutrient- dense foods, controlling food portion size, exercising regularly and measuring our waistlines on a regular basis.

FYI: According to my favorite Stanford doctor, Donald St.Claire, MD,  the stomach of most adults is about the size of a clenched fist. It can expand up to 3 or 4 times its size during a large meal, but it returns to the size of a clenched fist after food passes into the small intestine.
Ellen Troyer, MT MA
Biosyntrx Chief Research Officer


Visceral fat is now suggested to be a major player in the development of type-2 diabetes. The higher the weight and the higher the waist circumference, the higher the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, which is now considered the major healthcare epidemic in this country.  Visceral fat also secretes large quantites of inflammatory chemicals known as interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, as well as free radicals. These molecules are linked to inflammation and oxidation and can damage blood vessel walls, causing lesions where oxidized cholesterol can attach.
It's vital that all health care practitioners, including eye care professionals, start to address portion and weight control with their patient base because the risk of developing all of the degenerative diseases is dramatically increased in those who carry excess weight, and particularly in those who are clinically diagnosed as obese (BMI over 30).  These diseases include the four major eye diseases, cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.  
Over 65% of the U.S. population is now overweight and 35% of that population is suggested to be clinically obese.  We can collectively addresss the enormous cost of healthcare by taking far more personal responsibility for lifestyle choices that lead to weight-associated disease.
Click on the Biosyntrx blog for new CDC information on the enormously expensive to the tax payer type-2 diabetes epidemic.   

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Clinical references available in the Biosyntrx office.