New research has revealed that those who are genetically predisposed to accumulate weight around their middle are more likely to develop diabetes.
Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, US discovered that an apple-shaped body when weight is concentrated around the abdomen, rather than in the hips and thighs is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes.
The medical term for this is ‘abdominal adiposity’ and as well as type 2 diabetes, it’s linked to heart disease, elevated blood lipids, blood glucose and systolic blood pressure.
Sekar Kathiresan, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the MGH Centre for Genomic Medicine authored the report. He commented: “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'."
What is interesting about this research is that it shows that visceral fat has different properties to the fat that collects around the bottom or thighs. We may not like the weight that makes us ‘pear-shaped’, but it is actually healthier than trunk fat.
These findings should also make GPs more aware that not all fat is equal and stop focusing on overall weight or BMI in their patients. Instead they should check the waist-to-hip ratio – according to Kathiresan this is “an easily available marker for who is at particularly [high] risk for diabetes and heart disease.”
Thin Outside Fat Inside
A challenge for doctors when it comes to diagnosing visceral fat, are the so-called TOFIs – this acronym stands for Thin Outside, Fat Inside. They may seem slim, but in truth, these TOFIs are hiding visceral fat.
A simple, painless scan can ensure both doctors and patients are aware of their risks from visceral fat and the associated health risks.
The DEXA scanner, which is usually used as a diagnostic tool for osteoporosis can also give highly accurate readings of the total fat area around your abdomen.
DEXA – also referred to as DXA – is short for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. DEXA scans are safe, accurate, painless and non-invasive and take minutes to do. They are so safe and give such low doses of radiation (far less than an x-ray), you can self-refer without the requirement for a referral letter from your GP.
Not all DEXAs are the Same
Not all DEXAs have the necessary software for this calculation. Ensure the DEXA scan you book has the ‘Core Scan’ option which identify visceral fat. It is also essential that the place you booked has a consultant skilled in reading the results given by the DEXA scanner.
Professor David Reid, Emeritus Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Aberdeen and head of Densitometry at Twenty-five Harley Street day clinic has been at the forefront of the clinical application of dual-energy x-ray (DXA) scanning and is widely regarded as a leading international expert in this form of diagnostics says: ‘With these readings, you can discuss how to reduce your risk factors with lifestyle changes or in certain cases, medications.”