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Some Fat Is Just 'Toxic'

Researchers already know that nine out of 10 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, but now they are learning that even people with normal weight can be at risk if they are thick in the middle.

"Even if you're lucky enough to be thin in the legs and in the hips, if you have this abdominal fat, your risk goes up," reports Dr. Emily Senay, health and medical correspondent for The Early Show.

The fat that gathers around the abdomen (the apple shape and pot belly) is different from the fat that collects around the thighs or the hips or the booty, and is known as visceral fat, or fat that is deep inside the body.

"There is something about that fat inside the abdomen, this visceral fat, that behaves differently from fat elsewhere," Senay says. Some scientists say it even functions almost as its own organ system. "We used to think fat was a passive cell that didn't do much metabolically, now we know it interacts with insulin and glucose and the liver in a way that makes risk factors go up for people."

This type of fat actually changes a person's body chemistry and puts a person at higher risk for insulin resistance. Cells become sluggish and the insulin in your body no longer works well with your cells.

"And when you've got that,' concludes Senay, "you're on the road to type 2 diabetes."

Liposuction is no solution, either, she says. Studies have shown liposuction has no effect on a person's risk for type 2 diabetes. Now, researchers are trying to determine whether other types of surgery (literally removing some of this fat inside the abdomen) are effective.

The good news is overall weight loss reduces that fat around the abdomen as well and even a modest decrease of 7 to 10 percent can improve your health dramatically.

"There is no easy answer," concludes Senay. "We say it time and time again: just diet and exercise."

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