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.