Belly fat may drive inflammatory processes associated with disease

Armen Hareyan's picture
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As scientists learn more about the key role of inflammation in diabetes, heart disease and other disorders, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that fat in the belly may be an important promoter of that inflammation.

Excess fat is known to be associated with disease, but now the researchers have confirmed that fat cells inside the abdomen are secreting molecules that increase inflammation. It's the first evidence of a potential mechanistic link between abdominal fat and systemic inflammation.

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For years, scientists have been aware of a relationship between disease risk and excess belly fat. "Apple-shaped" people, who carry fat in the abdomen, have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other problems than "pear-shaped" people, who tend to store fat in the hips and thighs. Too much abdominal fat is associated with a defect in the body's response to insulin. During medical exams, some physicians measure waist circumference to identify patients at increased risk for these problems.

Not just any belly fat will cause inflammation, however. Back in 2004, Washington University investigators found that removing abdominal fat with liposuction did not provide the metabolic benefits normally associated with similar amounts of fat loss induced by dieting or exercising.

"Despite removing large amounts of subcutaneous fat from beneath the skin

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