Medical Technology

Visceral fat can help to identify heart risk in obese youth

Researchers have discovered that healthcare professionals can utilize the fat that surrounds abdominal organs to determine cardiovascular risks for young people suffering from obesity.

The subtle association between visceral fat and arterial stiffness was found in severely overweight children and young adults. The association was independent of BMI (body mass index). Researchers found healthy people did not have this association perhaps because their visceral fat stores were insufficient to have any discernable effect on cardiovascular health.

Dr Joseph Kindler

“Those kids with greater visceral fat had stiffer arteries, which can strain and overload the system and lead to unfavorable consequences for cardiovascular health down the line,” senior author Joseph M. Kindler, PhD, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Georgia, in Athens, told Medscape Medical News.

Cross-sectional measurements were taken from 605 youth aged 10-23 years at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. The sample consisted of 236 healthy-weight individuals and 224 obese individuals and 145 with Type 2 Diabetes.

Visceral fat was assessed with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) which is an extensively used test for bone mineral density screening to determine the risk of fracture. Carotid-femoral pulsewave speed (PWV) was used to determine the stiffness of the arterial wall which is a subclinical symptom of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that PWV was linked to visceral fat in all three study subjects ( P.05), while subcutaneous fat was linked with arterial stiffness in obese adolescents and obese people however not in those who were considered to be healthy.

After taking into account BMI, the amount of fat linked with an additional 1.6 percent variation in arterial stiffness among adolescents who are overweight. Subcutaneous fat, in contrast it was not found to impact PWV, researchers found. They write that “in teens with healthy weight visceral, subcutaneous fat and BMI were not significantly associated (with PWV) in any study.”

Researchers noted a lack of data regarding the relationship between visceral fat, and cardiovascular disease in obese children. DXA, a nutritionist and bone biologist, Kindler said that although BMI is an effective indicator of disease risk however, it’s not always accessible. For clinical use to boost BMI and waist circumference he said, “maybe there’s room for visceral fat, but we require more research to back those conclusions later on.”

For instance, what normal visceral fat accumulation during the childhood years is not known He said.

Dr Wei Shen

A rigorous longitudinal study is required to establish the causality and effect, but the findings of this study suggest “a possible link between visceral fat and cardiovascular disease risk for young people in a large sample” Wei Shen, MD, MPH, the associate director of the body composition section at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Columbia University, New York City, said.

Ideally and in the best case, said Shen who was not part of the latest study, it’s “more reliable to use the most precise measure of visceral fat, the visceral fat volumetric measurement using MRI” to establish a causal relationship with cardiovascular risk. DXA is easier to access and less expensive than MRI. To determine visceral fat in the clinic, “waist circumference may still be a good option, as it is so convenient to use,” she added.

Kindler and his coworkers highlighted the need for further study on the consequences of excess visceral fat and intrahepatic fat on young people with type 2 diabetes, who can experience cardiovascular problems regardless of their weight. In the study, the positive relationship between visceral fat and arterial stiffness was not different between people who are overweight and normal glucose control and those with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The Endocrine Fellows Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the University of Georgia Obesity Initiative have provided funding. Kindler and Wei have not disclosed any relevant financial relationships.

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Content Source: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/965207?src=rss

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