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Fat Alone, Not Where It Sits, May Be Key to Heart Problems
Date:3/11/2011

middle-aged people without many other obvious signs of heart disease risks.

Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition professor at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, indicated that the study conclusions make sense.

"It was not surprising that measures of fat distribution, such as waist circumference, did not do substantially better" in predicting heart disease, he noted.

But he said that obesity as a whole remains a key consideration, given that the factors that proved most useful in assessing heart risks -- such as high blood pressure and cholesterol -- are themselves the product of the "adverse effects of overweight."

Lona Sandon, a registered dietician and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, agreed that the findings "are reasonable in the grand scheme of things." But she, too, stressed that the findings should not be interpreted as permission to pack on the pounds.

"First of all, certainly people who are obese, no matter where the obesity is occurring on the body, should not dismiss their risk for heart disease," she said. "Carrying around excess weight puts you at a higher risk for heart disease than someone of normal weight, period."

"So while I'm not necessarily surprised that metabolic testing to measure your cholesterol levels, for example, is a better indicator of risk than, say, BMI, people should still be concerned about what's going on around their waistline," Sandon said. "In the end, people should think of that extra weight as a risk factor that leads to more risk factors, which lead to heart disease."

More information

The American Heart Association has more on obesity and heart disease.

SOURCES: Emanuele Di Angelantonio, M.D., Ph
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