Scientists have found new evidence linking obesity to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a study published in PLoS ONE, researchers have found a causal link between increased body mass index (BMI) and heart disease. These findings are particularly important considering that since nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, our nation's imperative to reverse the obesity epidemic becomes all the more important.
Danish researchers led by Borge G. Nordestgaard from the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital, wanted to determine if there was a direct link between obesity and heart disease risk.
To test their hypothesis, the research team analyzed data from two population based studies involving 75,627 adults, using a process known as Mendelian randomization in order to learn about any possible link between increased BMI and ischemic heart disease (IHD). The study required that each participant complete a lifestyle questionnaire and agree to physical examination prior to being followed so that researchers could ascertain which individuals would develop ischemic heart disease.
Obesity and Heart Disease are Directly Linked
Not surprisingly, Nordestgaard's team observed that increased BMI was linked to increased risk of ischemic heart disease. In fact, for every 4 kg/m2 increase in body mass index, the chances for ischemic heart disease went up by 26%. To put it bluntly, excess body weight is directly linked to increased heart disease risk.
Danish scientists used a process involving randomization of three genetic variants known to be associated with BMI to establish whether obesity is directly linked to ischemic heart disease.
This process allowed them to come up with some very interesting data with respect to obesity and cardiovascular disease. For example, people carrying six genetic variants which increased BMI had an 18% increased risk of ischemic heart disease compared to people who lacked BMI increasing genetic variants. Further data analysis painted an even bleaker picture: for every 4kg/m2 increase in BMI, the odds of IHD increased by 52%.
Due to the fact that this research involved such a large population of individuals, the implications of Nordestgaard's research are too serious to ignore.
Their study showed that over a lifetime, increased BMI has an adverse effect on heart health. Indeed, most incidents of overweight and obesity are the direct result of poor diet and lack of physical activity. The accumulation of excess body fat can lead to a host of health problems not the least of which include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Nordestgaard and colleagues hypothesize that the above risk factors can increase the chances that a person will develop ischemic heart disease.
This research is very important because it comes at a time when health officials have come to the realization that obesity here in the United States is not trending down.
One reason for this is the viscious cycle: excess body weight makes it difficult to exercise; without exercise the body won't burn enough calories which leads to more weight gain thereby continuing the cycle. If this continues over the course of a lifetime, the increasing amount of body fat will place a person's life at risk.
Ischemic heart disease, otherwise referred to as coronary heart disease, is a major killer. According to US government statistics, coronary heart disease is largely responsible for the 1.2 million heart attacks that Americans suffer each year.
Therefore, the Danish study, which establishes a direct link between increased BMI and increased risk of ischemic heart disease, underscores the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Reducing excess body fat may have a significant and positive impact on the health of your heart.
For more information about coronary heart disease, visit the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
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Nordestgaard, B., Palmer, T., Benn, M., Zacho, J., Tybjærg-Hansen, A., Davey Smith, G., & Timpson, N. (2012). The Effect of Elevated Body Mass Index on Ischemic Heart Disease Risk: Causal Estimates from a Mendelian Randomisation Approach PLoS Medicine, 9 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001212
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