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Location of body fat may be important in disability risk

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research suggests that higher levels of abdominal fat put people at just as much risk for future disability as overall body fat. The results were reported today by Denise Houston, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Las Vegas, Nev.

Houston and colleagues found that middle-age adults who had the highest levels of abdominal fat reported having the most difficulty performing such daily tasks as cooking, getting dressed and walking across a room, when they were surveyed nine years later. Adults who had both high abdominal fat and high overall body fat were especially at risk for disability.

"Our findings suggest that the risk of disability may be reduced by maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding increases in abdominal fat," said Houston, a research associate at Wake Forest Baptist.

The researchers evaluated data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a long-running study involving about 16,000 randomly selected participants in Forsyth County, Jackson, Miss., Hagerstown, Md., and suburban Minneapolis, Minn. Houston completed the research while she was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At the beginning of the study, researchers measured the waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index of participants, who were ages 45 to 64. The study excluded people who had chronic disease and were likely to already be disabled. Then, an average of nine years later, the researchers surveyed participants on their ability to perform daily tasks to determine whether overall body fat or abdominal fat may lead to disability.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of overall body fat based on weight and height. Disability was measured by asking participants to report on their ability to perform such tasks as dressing and feeding themselves, walking across a room and g
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17-Nov-2004


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