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Waist 'not' key to obesity risk

Friday March 11th, 2011

The body shapes of obese people do not play a major part in their increased risk of illness, according to the findings of a major study published today.

An international study of 220,000 people has challenged the idea that obese people who are 'apple' shaped are at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes than those with other types of fat distribution - the so-called pear-shaped.

Participants were monitored for almost ten years and more than 14,000 developed a heart attack or stroke in that time.

The researchers, led by Professor John Danesh, of the University of Cambridge, UK, found that while obesity is a major determinant of heart disease, body mass, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio each had a similar impact on the risk of heart attack and strokes.

Writing in The Lancet, Professor Danesh said the result highlights the value of doctors continuing to measure blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The researchers say cholesterol and blood pressure are the key indicators of heart disease risk - although obesity is a major factor.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Regardless of how you measure it, being obese is bad for your heart. This study suggests that measuring your waist is no better than calculating your BMI but it’s not time to throw away the tape measure just yet.

“We tend to underestimate our body shape and size, so measuring our waist or checking our BMI are both quick and easy ways we can check our health at home.”

Meanwhile, a separate study at the University of Edinburgh has pinpointed a protein, known as 11BetaHSD1, which plays a part in how fat is stored in the body.

Levels of the 11BetaHSD1 tend to be higher in the unhealthy type of body fat that is stored around the torso, while healthier fat, linked to lower levels of the protein, tends to be stored around the hips and is used more safely by the body as a source of energy.

The research is published in the journal Diabetes.

Dr Nik Morton, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: "This study opens up new avenues for research, and gives us a much better idea of why some fat in the body becomes unhealthy while other fat is safely stored for energy.”

The Lancet March 11 2011

Tags: Diabetes | Diet & Food | Fitness | Heart Health | UK News

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