30/11/2010 11:21 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Tummy Fat Increases Your Risk For Osteoporosis

Up until now experts considered one of the few benefits of being overweight was that your risk of developing brittle bones - or osteoporosis - was lower than normal. That's right, excess fat was believed to protect against bone loss.

Exercise helps reduce your risk of osteoporosis Weight-bearing exercise may reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Photo: Flickr, mikebaird

But now, radiologists from Harvard Medical School in Boston claim having too much abdominal fat may actually damage your bones. In other words, if you're overweight and apple-shaped, your risk of developing osteoporosis in later life might be higher than someone else who carries excess fat on their hips and thighs (ie. pear-shaped).

According to the National Osteoporosis Society, one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone mainly because of poor bone health, with almost three million people living in this country thought to have osteoporosis.

But why would excess tummy fat increase your risk? According to the US researchers, who scanned the vertebra of 50 overweight women, those with more visceral fat - that's fat found deep under the muscle tissue in the abdominal cavity - have increased bone marrow fat and decreased bone mineral density.

"Our results showed that having a lot of belly fat is more detrimental to bone health than having more superficial fat or fat around the hips," says lead researcher Dr Miriam Bredella.

Many experts believe diet may play a part in keeping bones healthy, while certain types of exercise are also thought to help maintain bone strength, which reduces your risk for having a fracture.

Osteoporosis tends to strike women and men in later life - but does that mean you don't have to worry about it until your older?

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