ANN ARBOR, Mich. By now, everyone knows that overweight people have a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and other problems that arise from clogged, hardened arteries. And people who carry their extra weight around their waist giving them a beer belly or an apple shape -- have the highest risk of all.
But despite the impact on human health, the reasons behind this connection between heart disease and belly fat also known as visceral fat -- have eluded scientists. Now, a new study in mice gives the first direct evidence of why this link might exist and a tantalizing look at how it might be broken.
In a paper that will be published online today in the journal Circulation before print publication in February, a team of University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center scientists reports direct evidence of a link between inflammation around the cells of visceral fat deposits, and the artery-hardening process of atherosclerosis.
The researchers also show that a medication often given to people with diabetes can be used to calm that inflammation, and protect against further artery damage.
Although the scientists caution that its far too early to apply their findings to humans with belly fat, they hope that further research in animals and people will reveal more about how this dangerous link comes about, why it begins, how it can be reversed, and perhaps how it can be diagnosed at an early stage through blood tests.
Until then, the best advice for overweight people who want to reduce their chance of a heart attack or stroke remains the same: Work on losing your belly fat, and your other excess body weight, through a balanced, healthy diet and regular exercise.
The research team is led by Daniel Eitzman, M.D., a cardiologist, laboratory scientist and associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the U-M Medical School and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
The discovery came par
|Contact: Kara Gavin|
University of Michigan Health System