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'Apple shape' may predict diabetes

Press Association logoPress Association 14/02/2017 Ella Pickover

Where you carry body fat could be a predictor for type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

Having an "apple-shaped" body - where weight is centred around the abdomen - holds a higher risk, scientists found.

Experts from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US found that having a genetic predisposition to "abdominal adiposity" - or an apple-shaped body - was associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Their study, published in the journal JAMA, examined the pattern of gene variants associated to this body shape - in which weight is deposited around the abdomen, rather than in the hips and thighs.

They found that having a genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity is linked to significant increases in the incidence of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, along with increases in blood lipids, blood glucose and systolic blood pressure.

Senior report author Sekar Kathiresan, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the MGH Centre for Genomic Medicine, said: "People vary in their distribution of body fat - some put fat in their belly, which we call abdominal adiposity, and some in their hips and thighs.

"Abdominal adiposity has been correlated with cardiometabolic disease, but whether it actually has a role in causing those conditions was unknown.

"We tested whether genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity was associated with the risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease and found that the answer was a firm 'yes'."

Study lead author Connor Emdin of the MGH Centre for Genomic Medicine, added: "The lack of association between the body type genetic risk score and confounding factors such as diet and smoking provides strong evidence that abdominal adiposity itself contributes to causing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"Not only do these results allow us to use body shape as a marker for increased cardiometabolic risk, they also suggest that developing drugs that modify fat distribution may help prevent these diseases.

"Future research also could identify individual genes that could be targeted to improve body fat distribution to reduce these risks."

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