Where fat is stored affects risk of type 2 diabetes, new study finds

by Barbara Hewitt on November 15, 2018

Genes associated with obesity may actually protect against type 2 diabetes and it all depends on where the body stores fat.

Indeed, it is exactly where extra fat is stored that matters more than the amount of fat when it comes to insulin resistance and the risk of developing diabetes, according to research from scientists across Europe.

Belly Fat

(By khomkrit sangkatechon/Shutterstock.com)

Researchers have revealed 14 new genetic variants that dictate where the body stores surplus fat and say that it was a surprise to find that some generic factors that increase obesity also work to lover the metabolic risk.

‘Where fat is stored is more important in terms of diabetes risk or other consequences than the actual amount of fat,’ said professor Alex Blakemore, a geneticist at the Brunel University London.

‘There are some genetic factors that increase obesity, but paradoxically reduce metabolic risk. It is to do with where on the body the fat is stored. Directly under the skin is better than around the organs or especially, within the liver,’ he explained.

The scientists looked at data from the British bio bank from more than 500,000 people aged between 37 and 73 and used MRI scans of these people’s waists to match where they stored extra fat with whether they showed signs of type 2 diabetes, heart attack and risk of stroke.

They found 14 genetic variations or changes in DNA molecule associated with higher BMI but a lower risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease. The study found that as they gain weight, people who carry these genetic factors store it safely under the skin, and so have less fat in their major organs such as the liver, pancreas and kidneys.

‘There are many overweight or obese individuals who do not carry the expected metabolic disease risks associated with higher BMI. Meanwhile, some lean or normal weight individuals develop diseases like type 2 diabetes,’ said Dr Hanieh Yaghootkar of the University of Exeter Medical School.

‘Since a large proportion of many populations are overweight or obese, our findings will help understand the mechanisms that delay or protect overweight or obese individuals from developing adverse metabolic outcomes including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension,’ he pointed out.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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