The omentum is probably not a word most are familiar with, until 2007 when Oprah Winfrey invited Dr. Mehmet Oz to discuss the nature of excess body fat. For her television viewers, Dr. Oz introduced the concept, even showing both a healthy and an overly fat omentum to people to showcase the biological importance of this organ.
The Oprah segment took a somewhat simplified yet medically correct approach to explaining the omentum. Actually, this fold of tissue is split into two segments called the greater and lesser omentum. The greater is a mass that sits in front of the stomach, and the lesser covers the liver. Both become easy repositories for fat storage. When the greater omentum is especially large, the abdomen may appear stiff and distended bringing to mind the term beer belly.
The omentum easily stores fat, since it is readily accessible to the body. When people lose weight, it shrinks, helping to reduce risks for a number of conditions. Dr. Oz contends that the great concern with a fatty omentum is that it starts inflammatory processes, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. Essentially the bigger it is, the more you are at risk for a variety of difficult illnesses.
This fold of tissue also receives and stores hormones like cortisol, called a stress hormone. High stress can stimulate its growth. People who are under a great deal of stress may find that reducing the size of this organ is very difficult, and they are often advised not simply to diet, but also to reduce stress through a variety of therapies, relaxation techniques, and lifestyle changes. Stress and tummy fat are inexorably connected.
The healthy omentum may still not be a pretty sight, unless viewing human anatomy thrills you. It is slightly yellow, somewhat similar in appearance to an uneven omelet. It should be nearly transparent, and have a lacy look.
A large and unhealthy omentum can be three to four times or even more the size of the healthy organ. Fat cells extend the area to make it appear like a weighty, globular mass. Even a person who is not significantly overweight can have a significantly large omentum as Dr. Oz demonstrated on Oprah’s show. A memorable screen shot is that of Oprah holding up the healthy one while Dr. Oz holds up one from a deceased man who was only about 30 pounds (13.61 kg) overweight. The contrast is striking.
Dr. Oz further gives measurements for what a healthy omentum size should be. The easiest way to measure is to measure from completely around the body, crossing over the belly button in the front. For women, this measurement should not exceed 32 inches (0.82 m). A healthy measurement for men is 35 inches (0.89 m). If the omentum measures larger than these figures, weight loss can help reduce risk of disease and promote overall better health and longevity.