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Diet & Health : Body Weight Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Liver fat, not body shape indicative of heart risk
By David Liu Ph.D.
Dec 4, 2008 - 12:37:39 PM

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Editor’s note:  Readers should not be led to believe that what's attributed to the heart risk is the liver fat.  Liver fat is a symptom that serves as a marker for heart disease only.  Likely other factors which accompany accumulation of liver fat are attributed to the heart disease.

Thursday Dec 4, 2008 ( -- For a long time, the body shape has been believed to be a good indicator of heart risk.  Pear-shaped people who have more fat below the waist are said to have a lower risk than the apple-shaped who have more fat above the waist.  But a new study suggests what is better indicative of heart risk is probably the liver fat.

The study found that among children with the same degree of obesity fatty liver disease was associated with abnormalities in glucose and fat metabolism, including lower levels of HDL cholesterol, risk markers for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers did not find the same metabolic problems among obese children who did not have fatty liver disease.

In the study, the researchers studied two groups of obese adolescents: one with excessive liver fat and the other without fatty liver disease. Both groups were matched by age, sex, body mass index, body fat percentage and degree of obesity.

The study was conducted by Samuel Klein, M.D., the Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and published in the Aug 2008 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In another study published in the Oct 2008 issue of Obesity, Klein's team found nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was related to elevated levels of fatty acids and triglycerides in the plasma, which were linked to insulin resistance, a key precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Obesity-associated nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is found in 3% to 9% of children in the United States, according to Vos MB and McClain CJ of Emory University.

In a paper published in the Oct 2008 issue of Current Diabetes Reports, Vos and McClain suggest that the fatty liver disease has more to do with genetics than diet because the diet overweight children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease used did not seem to differ much from that used by their overweight counterparts without the condition.  But they recommend sustainable family-oriented lifestyle changes in all children with the disease.
Leclercq IA and Horsmans Y say in their review published in the Nov 2008 issue of Current opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care that a healthy diet and lifestyle should be recommended to reduce fat mass and inflammation in the adipose tissue, restore insulin sensitivity, and provide low amounts of substrates for de-novo lipogenesis.

Moderate exercise, reduced intake of calories, sugars, and saturated fatty acids and increased intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may help nonalcoholic fatty liver disease according to the authors.

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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