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European Heart Journal

Clinical Articles, News & Views

Location of body fat can elevate heart disease and cancer risk

Individuals with excessive abdominal fat have a greater risk of heart disease and cancer than individuals with a similar body mass index (BMI) who carry their fat in other areas of the body, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.1

Researchers assessed ectopic fat in the abdominal area, around the heart tissue and around the aortic artery of 3,086 participants from the Framingham Heart Study and followed the participants for heart disease and cancer for up to seven years. The average age of participants was 50 years and nearly half were women.

Each patient was assessed, using a computed tomography (CT) scan to identify areas of fat accumulation. Over the follow-up period, patients were assessed for heart disease, cancer and death risk while adjusting for standard risk factors.

Overall, there were 90 cardiovascular events, 141 cancer cases and 71 deaths. Abdominal fat, which is typically an indicator of fat around internal organs, was associated with incident heart disease and cancer after adjusting for clinical risk factors and general obesity.

“Given the worldwide obesity epidemic, identification of high-risk individuals is important, as it allows targeting of preventive and therapeutic measures,” said lead author Dr Kathryn A Britton, (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA).

Co-author Dr Caroline S Fox (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Laboratory for Metabolic and Population Health, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA) added: “Contrary to previously published studies comparing BMI and waist circumference, the presence of abdominal fat improved the ability to predict for cardiovascular disease, supporting the hypothesis that abdominal fat may partially underlie the association of body fat and heart disease and cancer”.

References

1. Britton KA, Massaro JM, Murabito JM, Kreger BE, Hoffmann U, Fox CS. Body fat distribution, incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. Eur Heart J 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/eht211

Published on: July 30, 2013

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