The researchers took a novel approach of looking specifically at the body fat of people with metabolic syndrome -- a condition characterized by increased blood pressure, high-fasting blood-sugar levels, excess abdominal fat and abnormal cholesterol levels.
They found the fat cells released biomarkers associated with insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, conditions often leading to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Ishwarlal Jialal, UC Davis professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and senior author of the article stated that, "Our study shows that not all obesity is the same and some body fat may actually be toxic."
"We have shown that the dysfunction in the fat of people with metabolic syndrome is more than can be explained by obesity. It tells us that metabolic syndrome is a high-risk condition for people who are obese."
While metabolic syndrome can be reversed through diet and exercise resulting in weight loss, other kinds of treatment may be needed, Jialal said.
"I have done this for 34 years. It is hard to get people to stick to therapeutic lifestyle changes," he said, adding that researchers need to address the dysfunction of fat cells, using existing or novel drug therapies to block the production of damaging biomarkers.
"Once people have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, it's too late and far more expensive given the complications that ensue. Metabolic syndrome is the antecedent. This is where we need to intervene," said Jialal.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism August 2011