July 22, 2011

Belly and Liver Fat up Heart Disease Risk

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows obese people with high amounts of belly fat and liver fat may be at an increased risk for developing heart disease and other health problems.

Researchers in Sweden and Finland found obese patients at the greatest risk have more abdominal fat, a higher secretion of liver lipids, and an impaired removal of triglycerides from the blood stream. They suggest that doctors should regularly check obese patients for these risk factors.

"It is important to recognize that measuring abdominal fat and liver fat can identify the patients at high risk for metabolic abnormalities and heart disease," Jan Boren, M.D., Ph.D., study senior author and professor of molecular and clinical medicine at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, was quoted as saying. "Such exams are important because up to 20 percent of the obese appear to be 'metabolically normal.'"

The researchers found that liver fat if strongly associated with increased secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which contain the highest amount of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides carry an increased risk of metabolic abnormalities, heart disease and premature death.
For the study, middle-aged Caucasian men were divided into three groups: 14 were obese and had high triglycerides, 14 were obese and had normal triglycerides, and 10 were not obese and had normal triglycerides (serving as controls). The researchers used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure liver fat and magnetic resonance imaging to measure subcutaneous abdominal and visceral fat.

Results showed the obese men with elevated triglyceride levels had a liver fat content of 13 percent. The obese men with normal triglycerides had a 6.9 percent liver fat content. The non-obese men had a 2.9 percent liver fat content.

"Increased liver fat is dangerous, as it is linked with many known heart disease risk factors," Marja-Riitta Taskinen, M.D., Ph.D., study co-author and professor of medicine at the University of Helsinki in Finland, was quoted as saying. "Lifestyle modifications such as exercise and weight loss can reduce liver fat and the secretion of lipoproteins."

SOURCE: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association, July 21, 2011