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Mind your backs

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Fat around our stomach puts enormous pressure on our spine. A leading spinal surgeon has illustrated the problem by using everyday objects to drive home the message.

It’s not news that obesity is bad for us: it causes inflammation, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart problems and even some cancers.

But it seems most of us didn’t get the memo. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and nearly 14 million of their children are too. Worldwide, 1.9 billion adults are seriously overweight.

In addition to all the known risks, there’s another one that we don’t give much thought to, but that fills the hours of Kenneth Hansraj. Dr Hansraj is the chief spinal surgeon at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, and he’s forever fixing spines that have become misshapen from stomach fat.

He made international news with his “text neck” observations a few years back, which suggested that we’re starting to adopt a new, and unhealthy, posture from constant texting and writing on laptops. Now he’s turning his attentions to the obesity crisis. Obesity and overweight put an enormous strain on the spine and especially the lower back—but what does that really mean?

Hansraj and his team at the clinic have prepared a paper to illustrate the pressure our belly fat exerts on our spine by using everyday objects. For instance, a man with a waist measuring 127 centimeters (50 in.) is carrying belly fat that weighs 9.1 kg (20 lb). This number probably doesn’t register, but instead of stating the belly fat weight, Hansraj equates that to constantly lugging 58 hardcover books. Now he has your attention!1



Surgical Technology International, 2022; 40: 15236

Article Topics: hypertension, obesity
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