Belly fat — especially hidden fat deep in the gut — may indicate increased risk for heart disease, a new study suggests.
The six-year study of more than 1,000 adults found people with a “spare tire” in their midsection had a greater risk for heart disease compared to those with visible flab elsewhere under the skin — or “love handles.”
“Adipose tissue [fat in the stomach] along with fat below the skin has been associated with abnormalities, including high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels [good cholesterol], high blood pressure and greater risk of diabetes,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow. He is a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and had no part in the new study but is familiar with the findings.
The study looked at abdominal fat quantity and quality.
The researchers cautioned, however, that the study only showed an association between belly fat and potential heart disease, not that belly fat causes heart disease.
Fonarow said perhaps deep abdominal fat is unhealthier because it might increase insulin resistance, which can lead to high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.
“This study suggests individuals even with a body mass index in the normal or overweight category but who have increased abdominal mass — a pot belly — may be at increased cardiovascular risk,” Fonarow said.