Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Omentum has no Momentum

I don't know if any of you watch Oprah, or Dr. Oz on his own show, but if you do you may have heard about this previously little known part of our bodies. The omentum.

A healthy omentum is slightly transparent, almost lacy looking. An unhealthy omentum can be 3x, 4x, or even larger, than the healthy organ. Fat cells extend the organ to make it seem a globular, weighty mass. A person doesn't have to be extremely overweight to have an overly large omentum.

Healthy omentum held by Oprah. The unhealthy omentum held by Dr. Oz is from a man who was only 30 lbs overweight!

The omentum is a fat organ connected to your stomach. Its general purpose is to catch and store fat. When stored in your stomach your body has easy access to the fat. It also stores hormones, including cortisol - also known as a "stress hormone". I guess that is part of the reason stress and belly fat are often connected.

For people with high stress, diet and exercise alone do not often work to reduce the size of a person's omentum. Often stress relievers such as meditation or yoga are advised.

If you did happen to catch Dr. Oz's spiel about the omentum you may be thinking that it serves no real purpose. However the presentation was a bit oversimplified. The omentum has more to do with our bodies than simply store fat.

Sometimes described as a "fatty apron" the omentum helps to cushion and protect our organs. It also has nutrients and growth-stimulating chemicals as well as stem cells. And the omentum has germ-fighting cells that migrate to places of infection within the abdomen. It will adhere to places of infection, effectively sealing them off.

So yes your omentum is a valuable part of your body. However an over sized, fatty omentum is not healthy. As well as looking unsightly (ie creating a "beer belly" bulge) it can lead to diabetes, hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. Even more disturbing is that it can push other organs out of place as it expands.

This was of personal concern to me. I tend to carry most of my weight in my belly. My legs aren't fat, my butt isn't fat, my arms are okay. I have noticed my face is quite a bit fuller than it used to be but my real "fat stores" are my stomach and my breasts. I guess I need to add yoga to my 'get healthy plan'!


Flying Lily said...

Wow. I have literally never heard of this organ, didn't see the Oprah show, and am blown away. Is this really what beer bellies are made of? I'd always wondered. How can we tell what our omentums are like? I'll be thinking of this all day...

Michelle said...

I'm with Lily - never heard of it, but am intrigued. I generally carry extra weight well distributed all over my body, but I have had several years of high stress and have since been unable to drop those last few pounds. Wonder if this is why?

Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind said...

Great post...I remember that episode but had forgotten it...must show this to my DB, he is in awesome shape (runs marathons) but has a little patch of belly fat he just cant loose which is probably this organ. I am pear shaped so only put weight on my stomach when I get really heavy. Remember that old saying, "first place on, last place off"...