The study researchers compared fat volumes in obese people (over 30 BMI), all of whom had high blood pressure and/or diabetes, and lean healthy people (average BMI of 22). All subjects underwent MRI examinations to quantify pericardial and peri-aortic lipid volumes, cardiac function, aortic compliance and intra-hepatic lipid content. Fasting plasma lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, and free fatty acids were also measured among the subjects.
The researchers found collections of fat in anatomically separate locations, such as within the liver and around the heart, to be associated with cardiovascular function. As fat around the heart increased, there was a decrease in cardiac pumping function. They also found that the amount of fat around the heart and the aorta was not predicted by the BMI of the individual in this population.
Lead author, James Hamilton, PhD, claims, “Our study found that fat collection around the heart, the aorta and within the liver is clearly associated with decreased heart functions and that an MRI can quickly and noninvasively measure fat volume in these areas. Our study also found that looking at the BMI of individuals does not reliably predict the amount of undesired fat in and around organs.”
Researchers believe this method of measuring cardiac function and fat deposits can be done in less than an hour, and may provide a basis for future individualized treatments.
In the United States, obesity prevalence is rapidly rising. Recent estimates indicate that roughly 30 percent of the adult population falls under this category.