The variations in body fat distribution
matter: Visceral fat, or belly fat, has been linked to higher rates of
heart disease and hypertension, for example, while subcutaneous fat that
accumulates in the hips and thighs appears to offer some protection
against chronic disease.
Scientists have long studied the significance of body fat
distribution and they know that it is reflected in a person's body
shape. The fact that particular body shapes run in families suggests a
person's genes may influence the amount of fat that accumulates in
various parts of the body.
‘By identifying genes that are associated with ectopic fat, researchers can learn more about the biological mechanisms that may influence individual differences in the risk for cardiometabolic diseases.’
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have identified
seven new areas of the genome linked to body fat distribution - a finding
that could offer new insights into the biologic mechanisms that
influence a person's risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The study, which included more than 18,000 individuals of European,
African, Hispanic, and Chinese ancestry, is the largest ever to examine
genetic variants across the genome and their association with ectopic
fat, which accumulates in the abdominal area. The findings appear in Nature Genetics
Less understood, say researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute (NHLBI), are the genetic determinants of body fat
distribution and they hope their study begins to change that. By
identifying genes that are associated with ectopic fat, they say they
can learn more about the biological mechanisms that may influence
individual differences in the risk for cardiometabolic diseases.
The multiethnic nature of the study strengthened the findings, the
researchers note, as the study found the association between the genetic
regions and the ectopic fat to be the same across all ancestries, no
matter the sample size.