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Ethnicity May Drive Response to Obesity, Insulin Resistance

Study says blacks less likely to have high triglycerides than whites, Hispanics

WEDNESDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Ethnicity may play a role in the likelihood of developing fatty liver disease or insulin resistance.

A study in the March issue of Hepatology says U.S. blacks appear to have different metabolic responses that make their race more resistant than whites or Hispanics to collecting excessive triglycerides, a chemical form of fat in food and the blood, in their abdominal cavity where the liver resides. Blacks also seem to be less likely to develop the high triglyceride levels linked with insulin resistance.

Having too much fat in the liver, a condition related to obesity, is common in the United States. Twenty percent of all newly diagnosed cases of chronic liver disease, a potentially life-threatening condition, are linked to excessive liver fat.

Previous research had found ethnicity also seemed to have a role in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and hinted that blacks, for unknown reasons, tended not to develop more serious liver disease when they had this condition.

The researchers, led by Jeffrey Browning of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, made their conclusions after studying liver fat levels and metabolic factors in a population-based study of more than 2,000 blacks, whites and Hispanics.

The amount of fat in one's abdominal cavity area was related to the liver fat the person had, regardless of ethnicity, but insulin resistance, total fatty tissue or other fat deposits differed between blacks and the two other groups.

The researchers wrote that further study would be needed "to establish the basis for this insulin resistance paradox."

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about fatty liver.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Wiley-Blackwell, news release, Feb. 25, 2009

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