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Liver and belly fat may signify a high risk of heart disease.

FINLAND -- Obese people with high levels of abdominal fat and liver fat may face increased risks for heart disease and other serious health problems. Obesity is commonly associated with heart disease risk and cardiometabolic abnormalities, including insulin resistance, type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, cholesterol disorders, hypertension, and gout.

Researchers in Sweden and Finland found that obese people at the highest risk have increased secretion of liver lipids, more abdominal fat, and impaired removal of triglycerides from the bloodstream. As such, doctors should routinely check obese patients for intra-abdominal obesity and indications of liver fat, researchers said.

Jan Boren, M.D., Ph.D., study senior author and Professor of Molecular and Clinical Medicine at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said: "It is important to recognize that measuring abdominal fat and liver fat can identify the patients at high risk for metabolic abnormalities and heart disease. Such exams are important because of up to 20 percent of the obese appear to be "metabolically normal."

The researchers investigated what lies behind the development of lipid disorders in some obese people. They found that liver fat was strongly associated with increased secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs), which contain the highest amount of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides carry an increased risk of metabolic abnormalities, heart disease, and premature death.

Marja-Riitta Taskinen, M.D., Ph.D., study co-author at the University of Helsinki in Finland, commented: "Increased liver fat is dangerous, as it is linked with many known heart disease risk factors. Lifestyle modifications such as exercise and weight loss can reduce liver fat and the secretion of lipoproteins."

In the study, middle-aged Caucasian Finnish men were divided into three groups: 14 obese men had high triglyceride levels, 14 obese men had normal triglyceride levels, and 10 non-obese men had normal triglyceride levels and served as controls. The average age of the obese men was 52 to 55 years, and the average age of the non-obese men was 48 years.

Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to measure liver fat, and subcutaneous abdominal and visceral fat were measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The results showed that triglyceride levels in the obese men were higher as a result of the increased secretion, coupled with severely impaired clearance of triglyceriderich VLDL particles. The obese men with elevated triglycerides had a liver fat content of 13 percent, the obese men with normal triglycerides had 6.9 percent liver fat content, and the non-obese men had a 2.9 percent liver fat content.

(Source: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association, July 2011.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Geographic Code:4EUFI
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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