July 11, 2013
2 min read

Location of body fat may elevate CVD, cancer risk

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Individuals with excessive abdominal fat have a greater risk for CVD and cancer than individuals with a similar BMI who carry their fat in other areas of the body, according to new research.

“Contrary to previously published studies comparing BMI and waist circumference, the presence of abdominal fat improved the ability to predict for CVD, supporting the hypothesis that abdominal fat may partially underlie the association of body fat and heart disease and cancer,” Caroline S. Fox, MD, MPH, senior investigator at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Laboratory for Metabolic and Population Health, said in a press release.

Researchers used CT scan to assess ectopic fat depots in the abdominal area — visceral adipose tissue, pericardial adipose tissue and periaortic adipose tissue — of 3,086 Framingham Heart Study participants. The participants’ mean age was 50 years and 49% were women.

During an average follow-up of 5 years, the researchers recorded 90 CV events, 141 cases of cancer and 71 deaths. Visceral adipose tissue was associated with incident CVD (HR=1.44; 95% CI, 1.08-1.92) and cancer (HR=1.43; 95% CI, 1.12-1.84) after adjustment for clinical risk factors and general obesity. The addition of visceral adipose tissue to a multivariable model that included BMI was linked with a modest improvement in CV risk prediction (net reclassification improvement, 16.3%). The researchers identified no link between fat depots and all-cause mortality, according to the abstract.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.