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A Little Belly Fat May Be a Good Thing

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can a little belly fat be a good thing? Zoonar/Thinkstock

Belly fat does not just compromise the way one looks. It has also been associated with health risks such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colorectal and breast cancers as well as strokes.

Doctors have advocated eating healthy diets and living active lifestyles to avoid adding that extra tire around the waist.

However, with recent research coming in from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, it turns out that belly fat or omentum is not totally undesirable as it plays a very positive role in our immune system and defense response.

The omentum is basically a sheet of fat which is covered by the lining of the abdominal cavity or peritoneum.

The lower edge of our stomach is attached to the upper end of the omentum, whereas the greater omentum hangs down in front of the intestine and this is what gives the bulkier bellies their look. The lesser omentum is attached to the top edge of the stomach and extends to the undersurface of the liver. (1)

Because of this important discovery, new drugs could now be manufactured for patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease and lupus, as well as organ transplant recipients.

Corresponding author and associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Makio Iwashima, PhD, said, “We now have evidence that the omentum is not just fat sitting in the belly.” (2)

The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health and Van Kampen Cardiovascular Research Fund, was based on mouse models and studied the effects mouse omentum cells had on T-lymphocyte cells taken from a mouse.

T-cells are a type of immune cells which fight against infections, against viruses, bacteria and other foreign bodies.

It was observed that the T-cells, which normally multiply rapidly when exposed to infectious agents in order to defend the body, did not do so when they were introduced to omentum cells despite the presence of the infecting agent such as an antibody.

In fact, the T-cells died when exposed to omentum cells. (3) This came as a surprise to researchers, especially because these T-cells were already activated due to the presence of foreign invading body.

However, the omentum did not affect inactive T-cells. It was found that omentum cells were secreting a chemical that was turning off the immune system of the activated T-cells.

Such an effect of omentum cells would be of immense benefit in the manufacture of drug required to suppress the immune system, especially at the time of major organ transplants.

There was another finding to this research, and that was that the omentum actually plays a vital role in repairing damaged tissues through the regeneration of cells.

The omentum is rich in mesenchymal stem cells which travel to the site of the injury and assist in tissue regeneration. Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent cells of the connective tissue which can differentiate into bone cells, cartilage cells or fat cells.

According to the authors of the study, “These data demonstrate that the omentum is equipped to help tissue healing, as observed clinically in various settings, and that the function results from multiple subsets of cells that specialize in immune modulation and tissue regeneration. In the future, cells from the omentum may be applicable for use in support for tissue healing and regeneration in a variety of inflammatory disorders.”


1. Why Belly Fat Isn't All Bad; Science Daily News; Web June 2012;

2. Definition of Omentum; MedicineNet; Web June 2012;

3. Belly Fat Could Help Regulate Immune System, Say Researchers; Huffington Post; Web June 2012;

4. Two Groups of Cells ID'ed in Healing Potential of Omentum; HCP Live; Web June 2012;

Technical summary of the study may be accessed at:

1. Cellular Basis of Tissue Regeneration by Omentum; PLoS One; Web June 2012;


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1 (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2), Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Your-Mind-Tested-Mantras/dp/8120759737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316063179&sr=8-1) and the upcoming Women’s Complete Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K.

She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health.

Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com/

Reviewed July 5, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Diderique Konig

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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