Internal body fat may strongly increase heart disease risk

In a new scientistic statement, researchers claim excess internal body fat is a key driver for the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The research was conducted by a team from the International Atherosclerosis Society and other institutes.

The accumulation of internal body fat that surrounds our vital organs, also known as visceral or intra-abdominal fat, can increase the amount of fat that becomes stored inside the liver, heart, and pancreas and in skeletal muscle (ectopic fat).

Excess visceral and ectopic fat could harm our metabolism and can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Measurement of visceral and ectopic fat can improve the prediction, treatment, and prevention of these diseases.

However, the internal location of these types of fat makes them difficult to measure without sophisticated technologies like computer tomography (CT) scanning or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Body mass index (BMI) is used to measure body fatness and stages of obesity but BMI provides no information about the amount of visceral or ectopic fat.

Despite this, public health education and clinical campaigns to reduce obesity and its related diseases still place emphasis on measuring BMI.

But it has become clear that there is considerable variation in risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in people with the same BMI.

In the study, the team reviewed the roles of visceral and ectopic fat in chronic diseases and examined practical recommendations for measuring these types of body fat.

They identified the need to develop simple and clinically applicable tools for measuring visceral fat, which is a marker of ectopic fat.

These tools include the straightforward measurement of waist circumference as a replacement marker of the amount of visceral fat in the abdomen, and combining this metric with a measure of elevated blood fat (plasma triglyceride) to give what is known as the ‘hypertriglyceridemic waist.”

However, more refined imaging-based methods will be required to measure and reduce these specific types of fat to combat the growing epidemic of obesity-related heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Other scientists say this is a major publication which emphasizes to doctors the need beyond the management of the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease mediated by LDL-cholesterol.

Indeed, many patients treated with statins, effective drugs for lowering LDL-cholesterol levels, remain at risk for heart disease because of their visceral obesity.

One author of the study is Professor Bruce Griffin from the University of Surrey.

The study is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

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