A recent study from UT Southwestern found a commonly prescribed weight-loss drug called liraglutide could benefit heart health.
In people who are overweight or have obesity combined with high heart risk, once-daily liraglutide combined with lifestyle interventions effectively lowered two types of fat that have been linked to heart problems: visceral fat (belly fat) and ectopic fat.
The researchers found a big decrease in visceral fat in patients without diabetes but who were overweight or had obesity.
These results suggest liraglutide treatment may effectively lower the risk of chronic disease in overweight and obese people.
Visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity around important internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines.
Ectopic fat is stored in tissues that normally contain small amounts of fat, such as the liver, skeletal muscle, heart, and pancreas.
In the study, 185 participants were given a once-daily injection of liraglutide over 40 weeks of treatment.
The relative effects of liraglutide on fat reduction were two-fold greater in the abdominal tissues and six-fold greater in the liver than seen in overall body weight.
The treatment effect was consistent among those with or without pre-diabetes. Liraglutide also reduced blood sugar and inflammation in people without diabetes.
The findings help add a possible mechanism for why there is a benefit of liraglutide on heart health while also showing its benefits in people without diabetes.
According to the researchers, obesity affects an estimated 1 in every 4 adults and 1 in every 5 youths, leading to a higher risk of heart disease and mortality.
Excess visceral fat and ectopic (e.g., liver) fat are central to the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It remains challenging to identify those at the highest risk, in order to offer them treatment in addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about how to cut heart attack risk by half, and results showing people who do not exercise may have instant death from heart attack.
The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology and conducted by Parag Joshi et al.
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