Vitality

Stomach Fat Increases Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease, Research Shows

Stomach fat — the one hidden in the gut in particular — may result in elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study. The results showed that the risk was greater in those who had belly fat compared to people with fat deposits elsewhere in the body.

For the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Monday, researchers examined abdominal fat quantity and quality in 1,106 adults from the long-running Framingham Heart Study. The average age of the participants was 45.

After six years of the study, researchers found that increased amount of fat and reduced fat density were associated with changes in the risk for cardiovascular disease. The findings also showed that the extra pound of fat was linked to onset of high blood pressure, high triglycerides and metabolic syndrome.

“What's really interesting is that we show that an increase in the amount of stomach fat and a lower density fat is associated with worse heart disease risk factors — even after accounting for how much weight was gained,” Caroline Fox, senior researcher of the study and former senior investigator for the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said in a statement. “This hasn’t been shown before.”

“Measuring fat density is a new measure that we are still working to understand and warrants further investigation,” she said. “We used it as an indirect measure of fat quality and found that lower numbers were linked to greater heart disease risk.”

According to the study's findings, people with increased amount of stomach fat were at higher risk of high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL cholesterol. This remained significant even when the researchers took changes in body weight and waist size into account.

However, the researchers warned that the findings showed only a possible link between stomach fat and cardiovascular disease, and did not imply that belly fat leads to heart disease.

Health experts say that finding the location and type of body fat gives important information — possibly better than that from body mass index (BMI) that is used to calculate body fat based on weight and height, CBS News reported.

“This study supports a growing body of literature demonstrating that adipose tissue imaging provides important information about cardiovascular risk not contained in the measurement of BMI alone,” said Dr. Ian Neeland, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and co-author of an accompanying editorial in the journal.

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