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More Fat Leads to Less Coronary Artery Calcification

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences studying links between an early sign of heart disease called coronary artery calcification and body fat have found that, paradoxically, more fat may have some advantages, at least for people particularly women who have type 1 diabetes.

Cardiovascular complications, including heart disease, are a leading cause of death for people with diabetes, who tend to suffer cardiovascular disease decades earlier than non-diabetics.

Gaining weight may reflect good or better treatment with insulin therapy, which may partly explain why participants who gained weight over time had lower mortality rates, said Trevor Orchard, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).

For this particular report, Dr. Orchard and his colleagues focused on 315 patients with type 1 diabetes participating in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, an 18-year prospective study of childhood onset type 1 diabetes, which began in 1986. As part of the study, the patients recently received a special computed tomography scan (CT) to assess coronary artery calcification.

Omega-3 fatty acids create chemical compounds known as bioactive mediators, which protect against the growth of abnormal blood vessels, a condition that characterizes some forms of retinopathy. In part, this occurs because these mediators suppress a type of inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). TNF-alpha is found in one type of cell, called microglia, that can be closely associated with retinal blood vessels.

The retina has one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in the body, said lead author and NEI fellowship recipient Kip M. Connor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Childrens Hospital Boston. Given this, it is remarkable that with only a two percent change in die
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