"It is well known that obesity affects nearly one-third of adults in the United States and is closely linked with heart disease," said Tongjian You, Ph.D., instructor in geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author. "While we don't fully understand the link between obesity and heart disease, our study suggests that inflammatory proteins produced by fat itself may play a role."
The study, to be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism, evaluated whether inflammatory proteins produced by fat are linked to risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and how the body responds to insulin. The research is based on a new idea in medicine that fat is an "organ" that produces proteins and hormones that affect metabolism and health.
The researchers studied two proteins that promote inflammation (interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha) and a protein that promotes blood clots (plasminogen activator inhibitor 1). These proteins are all manufactured by fat tissue and involved in atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in the linings of blood vessels. In addition, the scientists also looked at two "good" proteins, leptin, which regulates energy metabolism, and adiponectin, which has anti-inflammatory effects.
To gauge production levels of the proteins, the scientists took small samples of subcutaneous fat, which is just under the skin, from the abdomen and measured levels of messenger RNA (mRNA), which carries the genetic code instructions for cells to create the proteins.
The study included 20 post-menopausal women from 50 to 70 years old who were overweight or obese and had waists larger than 35 inche
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center