You might be lamenting your lack of six pack, but it turns out a decrease in stomach fat likely won’t reduce your risk of breast cancer. A new study says that an overall decrease in body fat is actually key in lowering the levels of breast cancer markers. Published in Endocrine-Related Cancer, the research showed that breast cancer risk was reduced in postmenopausal women after losing total body fat and not just belly fat.

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The study was conducted by researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. They recruited 243 overweight, postmenopausal women who lost about 11 to 13 pounds in 16 weeks. Then, they measured sex hormones, leptin and markers of inflammation, which were compared to pre-weight loss levels. Overall fat as well as abdominal fat was measured using X-ray and MRI scans.

The team found that the reduction on body fat was linked to lower levels of markers associated with breast cancer, like sex hormones and leptin. A reduction in abdominal fat, however, helped reduce inflammation markers.

Lead study author Dr. Evelyn Monninkhof says in a release, "It is known that belly fat increases the risk of several chronic diseases, independently of total body fat, but for reducing sex hormone levels total body fat seems more important."

Monninkhof says the team will work to find easy strategies for people to reduce fat. "Our next step is to find out how belly fat and total body fat can best be conquered, to identify which nutritional or physical activity programmes are optimal for reducing both weight gain and breast cancer risk."

It’s no surprise that being overweight affects your health, particularly the heart. According to WebMD, extra fat seriously impacts every system in your body, and with most, everything goes back to putting too much stress on your ticker. This is especially dangerous as it can lead to increased cholesterol, heart disease risk and strokes. Less commonly known is that excess fat increases a woman’s levels of male hormones, which in turn, elevates heart disease risk.

Many often think of sugar as the main cause of diabetes, but being overweight can be a factor too as it causes your body to produce more insulin. And guess what? Extra insulin can cause heart disease.

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Fat is linked to less dangerous issues. According to Harvard Health Publications, people who sport a few extra pounds, especially in the stomach area, have trouble sleeping and are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Research has shown that poor sleep quality can actually make someone gain weight, which helps perpetuate this cycle.

Losing weight is never easy, but studies have shown that high fiber and protein meal plans keep dieters more satiated and are linked to lower body fat.

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