Stomach fat increases risk more than overall or peripheral fat. Among women over 60 years of age, extra abdominal fat appears to increase the risk of atherosclerosis more than either overall obesity or peripheral fat mass, according to a report published in the April 1st issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
These findings suggest that “all fat is not the same in women,” Dr. Robert Bonow, president of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.
This is not the first report to suggest that fat location is an important determinant of cardiovascular health, lead author Dr. Laszlo B. Tanko, from the Center for Clinical and Basic Research in Ballerup, Denmark, and colleagues note.
Past research has shown that excess abdominal fat, compared with fat elsewhere in the body, can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke in middle age.
Dr. Tanko’s group compared excess central fat with excess peripheral fat as atherosclerosis risk factors. The authors measured body fat in 1356 women between the ages of 60 and 85 years, and assessed aortic calcification on lateral radiographs.
The researchers found that women with the highest degree of aortic calcification also had the highest percentage of abdominal fat and low levels of fat in other body regions. Surprisingly, the women with the lowest levels of aortic calcification were generally obese, with excess peripheral fat mass.
“The present study demonstrated that in elderly women localization of fat mass is more important for atherogenesis than obesity per se,” the researchers write. “Our most important and somewhat surprising finding is that peripheral fat mass may overrule the adverse effects of visceral fat mass,” Dr. Tanko said in a statement.
The percentage of abdominal fat also tended to be higher among women who had already experienced a myocardial infarction, relative to those with no heart disease, regardless of whether they had extra body fat in other regions. Circulation 2003;107:000-000
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