Fat cells around coronary arteries release chemicals that could trigger inflammation leading to deterioration of the vessels, says a new study that may provide the crucial link between obesity and heart disease.
The study by researchers at University of Iowa found that fat cells lying close to blood vessels in the heart are highly active, releasing many chemicals that influence biological processes within the body, reported the online edition of BBC News.
Fat cells or adipocytes, were once thought to do nothing other than simply store excess fat tissue.
Most large blood vessels in the body are enveloped in a layer of fat cells. The researchers suspect that the chemicals pumped out by the fat cells surrounding the coronary arteries might play a role in triggering heart disease by contributing to the deterioration of these vessels.
Lead researcher Lynn Stoll said: "The fat cells surrounding coronary arteries may ultimately prove to be an important link between obesity, type two diabetes, and coronary artery disease, all of which are increasing at epidemic rates."
The findings were presented to the Experimental Biology 2006 conference in San Francisco.
"It has been recognised for several years that fat cells stored up around the body secrete hormones that affect blood vessel function, but this is the first time that researchers have paid careful attention to fat cells lying close to blood vessels in the heart," said Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation.