Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning
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Science has drawn an important link between weight and the risk for premature death, with studies showing that the shape of a body, notably whether it is apple or pear-shaped, can significantly affect the risk of mortality. Visceral fat is associated with a higher risk of death, because internal fat deposits wrap around the abdominal organs deep inside the body, creating a health hazard. Researchers have found one common weight-loss drug that could protect the heart by reducing dangerous fats in the body.
The clinical study led by researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre, found that a commonly-prescribed weight loss drug targets fat that can help maintain heart health.
The study found that in overweight adults at high cardiovascular disease risk, the drug liraglutide combined with lifestyle interventions significantly lowered the risk of heart complications.
Researchers explained this was because the drug significantly lowered visceral fat and ectopic fat in the body.
While visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity, ectopic fat is stored in tissues that normally contain small amounts of fat, such as the liver, skeletal muscle, heart and pancreas.
READ MORE: How to lose visceral fat: The hot drink that burns belly fat when consumed once a day
Furthermore, visceral fat secretes chemicals known to trigger systemic inflammation, thereby increasing the risk for many health complications.
Weight gain in the middle region of the body usually indicates a higher amount of visceral fat, making a larger waist-to-hip ratio a considerable heart attack risk factor.
Parag Joshi, assistant professor of cardiology and senior author of the study, said: “Our study used the latest imaging technology to evaluate different fat components in the body.
“The main finding was a significant decrease in visceral fat in patients without diabetes but who were overweight or had obesity.
“These results show the potential of liraglutide treatment for significantly lowering the risk of chronic disease in the population.”
For the study, the team administered once-daily injection of liraglutide to 185 participants over a period of 40 weeks.
The findings, published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, showed that effects of liraglutide on fat reduction were twice as effective in the abdominal tissues and six times more effective in the liver.
Researchers also noted the drug reduced fasting blood glucose and inflammation in all participants, the majority of whom had normal blood sugar levels at baseline.
The results of the study echoed a 2016 analysis which identified lower occurrences of death from cardiovascular causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction or nonfatal stroke in patients treated with liraglutide.
Joshi added: “Our findings help add a possible mechanism for why there is a benefit of liraglutide on cardiovascular outcomes while also showing its benefits in people without diabetes.
“Excess visceral fat and ectopic fat are central to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It remains challenging to identify those at higher risk, in order to offer them treatment in addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.”
According to Health Harvard, ways to improve heart health include:
Taking a 10 minute walk: The heart is a muscle, and as with any muscle, exercise strengthens it.
Eating fruit or vegetables: Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day appears to lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Eat nuts: Besides being packed with protein, nuts contain heart-healthy substances.
Wash your hands often: Keeping your hands clean can help prevent illnesses that can be harsh on the heart.
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