Fat around the heart may spur heart attacks

July 30th, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 30 (IANS) Excess fat around the heart may be worse than having a high body mass index or a thick waist, according to researchers. The study was among the first to explore the suspected link between fat deposits around the heart and the development of hard, calcified plaque in arteries.

Calcified plaque may not be risky, but it is linked with the presence of less stable fatty deposits that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

“The distribution of body fat may be as important as the amount of body fat in determining risk of heart attacks,” said Jingzhong Ding, of Wake Forest University and co-author of the report. “Even a thin person can have fat around the heart.”

Researchers examined data from the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), involving 6,800 participants, to explore their hypothesis that fat around arteries in the heart contributes to inflammation and to increased risk of fatty deposits in the vessels.

In addition to its role as energy storage, fat is considered to be an “organ” that produces proteins and hormones that affect metabolism and health.

Ding’s study is based on a new idea in medicine - that excess fat around the heart and other organs may impair their function. Pericardial fat, or stores of fat around the heart, is known to have a higher secretion of inflammatory cytokines, proteins that regulate inflammation, than fat stored just under the skin.

The scientists suspect that constant exposure of inflammatory proteins produced by fat around the heart may accelerate the development of atherosclerosis.

The study will appear in the August issue of Obesity.

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