Is your pot belly or muffin top making you feel self-conscious? Well, there's something even more dangerous hiding beneath it: Fat around your muscles. This silent threat can seriously jeopardize your health and cut short your longevity, a new study has found.

Myosteatosis is the accumulation of pathological fat in skeletal muscle tissue. It tends to increase with age and has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, according to the National Library of Medicine.

A study involving 9,000 adults, which was published in the journal Radiology, showed that people with myosteatosis had a 10-year mortality risk of 15.5%, which is more than the 7.6% observed in obese individuals.

In fact, the risk associated with myosteatosis was higher than the risks posed by factors such as fat around abdominal organs and fatty liver disease. The key risks associated with myosteatosis were comparable to risks associated with smoking or type 2 diabetes.

According to study co-author Dr. Maxime Nachit, the correlation was unaffected by age or obesity indicators such as BMI.

"Interestingly, the relationship was independent of age or markers of obesity such as BMI," Nachit said in a media release. "This means that fat accumulation in the muscles is not merely explained by being older and/or having fat overload in other locations of the body."

Despite the grave threat that myosteatosis poses, there is a lack of medical promptness in addressing and curbing this issue, researchers say.

"We're seeing the advent of 'personalized medicine' that aims to customize medical management based on a range of information, including genetics, medical history, physical characteristics, and complex molecular evaluations. Our study shows that myosteatosis, identifiable from routine medical images, is a reliable indicator of an individual's short-term mortality risk," Nachit said.

Researchers used machine learning to better understand the issue. They utilized abdominal CT scans of asymptomatic adults who participated in routine bowel cancer screenings between 2004 and 2016 to extract measurements related to body composition.

The study documented significant adverse events, including heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, and fatalities. Among the 507 participants who died, around 55% were found to have myosteatosis.

Obesity in America
The U.S. appears to keep getting fatter with predictions that over 50 percent of adults will be obese by 2030. REUTERS/David Gray