Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Pear Shaped Fat Storage Heart Disease

People who are “apple-shaped”, with more fat carried around the stomach, have been considered more at risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who are “pear-shaped”, with more fat carried in the buttocks, hips and thighs. It was simple: apple-shaped men were considered to be at higher risk than pear-shaped women. New research provides evidence that the protective benefits of having a pear-shaped body may be more myth than reality.

Researchers have looked at the differences in gene expression in belly fat versus thigh fat. They have found that the genes operating in the belly fat are vastly different from the genes functioning in the thigh fat. There is also a difference between men and women. It is thought that these genes program the fat cells to respond differently to different hormones and signals. These genes would also determine what proteins are made in the fat cells.

Recent research suggests that gluteal (buttock) fat is not as innocent as once thought. It has shown that fat stored in the buttock area secretes abnormal levels of proteins that can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance in people at high risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that double the risk for heart disease. These risk factors include a large waistline, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and high fasting blood sugar.

Abnormal protein levels may be an early indicator for those at risk of developing metabolic syndrome and its related health problems such as heart disease. High levels of one protein, chemerin, are correlated with high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low levels of HDL, and insulin resistance. Low levels of another protein, omentin-1, correlate with high levels of triglycerides, low levels of HDL, and high blood glucose levels.

Researchers found that both chemerin and omentin-1 protein levels were abnormal in the plasma of overweight patients, especially those with early signs of metabolic syndrome. The abnormal levels were independent of age, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference.

Further research will be necessary to confirm that these protein levels can be used as markers for development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They could emerge as a key test to define high-risk obesity states. The protein levels could help to target people at highest risk so that they can focus on weight loss and exercise before developing heart disease. It has been found that weight loss will improve these protein levels along with the risk of disease.

This is cutting edge news for now, but may become common testing over the upcoming years. For now everyone should focus on a good diet, watching their weight, and a reasonable exercise routine to help ward off heart disease and diabetes in later years. Women can no longer depend on carrying their fat in their hips and thighs as a “safe” way of being overweight and avoiding future health problems. No matter where the fat is located it is still a problem – By Kathy Trumbull, MD.