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Gene Variants Related to Size Also Linked to Heart Disease

Posted On: 02-17-2017
Gene Variants Related to Size Also Linked to Heart Disease
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the same gene variants that contribute to the odds of having a large stomach (an apple shape) might also be linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This isn’t the first study to suggest that a larger-than-average waistline contributes to health problems, even when compared to those who carry excess weight around the hips and thighs. However, earlier studies have not looked at the causation link between large waistline and health problems. This new study does.

The researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital looked at whether or not the gene variants that contribute to abdominal obesity were similarly tied to risks of diabetes and heart disease, independent of other factors. They focused on 48 gene variants that had previously been linked to waist-to-hip ratio to develop a risk score. The score was applied to more than 400,000 adults who had participated in previous health studies and adjusted for the body mass index of each person.

The study found that each standard deviation in waist-to-hip ratio raised heart disease risk by 46 percent and type 2 diabetes risk by 77 percent. Those with abdominal obesity also tended to have higher blood pressure and blood sugar. The study’s lead author indicated that these results pointed to strong evidence that excess abdominal fat contributes to heart disease and diabetes.

The University of Bristol in England’s Dr. George Davey Smith wrote an editorial with the study. Dr. Smith stated that abdominal obesity influences disease outcome, independently of body mass index.

While the study didn’t look at how the risks of heart disease and diabetes could be reduced by losing belly fat, Dr. Smith suggested that it could.

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