Wake Forest University researchers are looking at fat -- specifically fat around the heart.
It may be an important indicator of heart health, even more so than whether a person is overweight or obese.
Fat around the heart is known as pericardial fat. Researchers at Baptist Medical Center found that study participants with the highest levels of pericardial fat were five times more likely to have calcified coronary plaque.
159 participants without coronary heart disease were recruited from North Carolina and given a computed tomography or CT scan to measure the amount of calcified coronary plaque. Despite gender, weight, or ethnicity, those participants with the greatest amount of pericardial fat displayed the most calcified coronary plaque.
The theory is that pericardial fat secretes inflammatory proteins or cytokines, more so that fat around the belly for example. A constant exposure to the inflammatory protein may speed the development of hardening of the arteries in the heart.
The pericardial fat was associated with calcified coronary plaque, indepent of BMI and height-adjusted waist circumference. Even someone who appears outwardly thin can have the buildup of plaque around the heart.
The study is published in the journal Obesity. #