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Dr. M. Sue Kirkman and Dr. Sriram Machineni from the division of endocrinology and metabolism were interviewed in a Popsugar article about excess belly fat and the link to certain diseases.

M. Sue Kirkman, MD, and Sriram Machineni, MD

Dr. M. Sue Kirkman, professor of medicine and medical director of the UNC Diabetes Care Center Clinical Trials Unit says diseases associated with excess belly fat include heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and some cancers, such as colon cancer. In a recent Popsugar article, Kirkman says visceral fat is the fat inside the abdominal cavity, surrounding the abdominal organs, and it secretes hormones and inflammatory factors that can put a patient at risk.

“We used to think that all fat was primarily just storage tissue, and that it didn’t otherwise do much,” says Kirkman in the article. “But it turns out that subcutaneous fat is primarily just for storage, but visceral fat is much more active.”

Dr. Sriram Machineni, assistant professor and director of the UNC Medical Weight Program, explains subcutaneous fat as the fat immediate below the skin and above the muscle layer, typically found on the buttocks, thighs or upper arms. He says this type of fat you can see, but it’s not strongly associated with health impairments.

Kirkman also recognizes sleep apnea, hypertension and fatty liver disease as being linked to high levels of visceral fat. She says arthritis is also more common in people with excess visceral fat, along with depression and dementia, although the reasons aren’t fully understood.

The Popsugar article can be access here: