Belly Fat Linked to Increase Heart and Cancer Risks
Carrying around too much belly fat can put an individual at an elevated risk for heart disease and cancer when compared to those who have a similar body mass index but carry their fat in other areas of the body. This is according to a US study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Prior studies have demonstrated that the risk of disease and death linked to obesity or being overweight varies amongst individuals with the same BMI. Now a study suggests that ectopic fat – fat where it shouldn’t be present, like around the abdomen – could be the explanation behind this variation.
It is already widely known that carrying excess fat around the waist can be more deadly than carrying it elsewhere on the body, such as on the hips or thighs. However, this latest study is the first to use CT scans to observe which specific fat deposits are linked to disease link.
This study used data gathered in the Framingham Heart Study from over 3,000 participants who were observed for up to seven years. Their average age was 50, and over half were female. The physical exams each participant underwent at the start of the study included CT scans, allowing researchers to evaluate fat deposits in the abdomen, around the heart and around the aorta, the largest artery in the human body.
During the follow-up period, there were 90 heart-related events, 141 occurrences of cancer, and 71 deaths amongst the participants. When the researchers analyzed these events in relation to the location of fat deposits, they discovered that abdominal fat was linked to heart disease and cancer.
This study is the first to demonstrate that when adding the presence of belly fat to measures that compare BMI to waist size, the ability to accurately predict cardiovascular risk improves. Although the researchers didn’t look into why fat in the abdomen is linked to higher heart disease risk, they conclude that their findings support the idea that ectopic fat plays “a pathogenic role” in disease development.
A possible explanation behind belly fat’s link to disease could be because the presence of this kind of fat indicates excess fat around internal organs. The authors believe the findings are valuable because, given the global obesity epidemic, it is important to identify individuals at high risk so that prevention and therapy can be tailored specifically for their needs.
Written by Stuart Diamond