Heart1.com: Great Information, Real Community, Better Living.
 Register
 Login
 Main Page
 Heart News
Feature Story
 Education Center
Conditions
Procedures
Diagnostics
 Heart Attack Center
Prevention
Survivors
Dr. Tod Engelhardt  Heart
 Hero™

Dr. Tod Engelhardt:
Combating Major Blood Clots.
About Heroes
 Join the Discussion  in  Our Forums
 Community
Heart1 Forums
Patient Stories
 Reference
Online Resources
Video Library
advertisement
Search the Body1 Network
October 25, 2014  
HEART NEWS: Feature Story

  • Print this Article
  • Email this Article
  • Links/Reprints
  • belly fat

    The Importance Of Fat Location And How Belly Fat Differs From Thigh Fat


    January 08, 2013
    Source: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

    Researchers discover that the genes active in a person's belly fat are significantly different from those in his or her thigh fat, a finding that could shift the way we approach unwanted belly fat - from banishing it to relocating it. 

    Men tend to store fat in the abdominal area, but don't usually have much in the way of hips or thighs. Women, on the other hand, are more often pear-shaped - storing more fat on their hips and thighs than in the belly. 

    Why are women and men shaped differently? 

    The answer still isn't clear, but it's an issue worth investigating, says Steven Smith, M.D., director of the Florida Hospital - Sanford-Burnham Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes. That's because belly fat is associated with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes. On the other hand, hip and thigh fat don't seem to play a special role in these conditions. 

    In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Smith and colleagues help explain this discrepancy by determining how belly and thigh fat differ genetically. This research might shift common thinking about fat - rather than focusing on how to banish belly fat, perhaps we need to tip the balance in favor of heart-friendly fat in the lower body. In that case, the study also provides a first step toward aiming treatments at specific regions of the body, especially those that contribute most to the complications of obesity

    Belly fat genes vs. thigh fat genes 

    Smith and colleagues first took fat samples from men and women. Then they compared the genes most active in belly fat to those most active in thigh fat. 

    Here's what they found: The genes operating in a person's thigh fat are hugely different from those in his or her belly fat. For men, 125 genes are expressed differently in the belly than in the thighs. For women, it's 218 genes (most are unique to women, but 59 genes are the same as those that varied in male fat). 

    The most notable genes that differed are known as homeobox genes. These genes are known for their role in helping shape a developing embryo - determining which cells and organs go where. Many homeobox genes are influenced by hormones such as estrogen. 

    Why are these homeobox genes important for fat? "We believe these genes actually program those fat cells to respond differently to different hormones and other signals," Smith says. 

    Stem cells show fat is preprogrammed for its location 

    In the course of their work, Smith and his team also isolated stem cells from belly and thigh fat and grew them in laboratory dishes. This was a nice control because fat cells in a dish aren't influenced by nerves, hormones, or other outside signals. 

    Yet the researchers still saw the same location-specific differences in gene activity in the fat that developed from these stem cells. That result told them that the cells are preprogrammed. In other words, belly fat and thigh fat are genetically destined for their final location during development. It's not a difference that's acquired over time, as a result of diet or environmental exposure. 

    A new way of thinking about fat 

    Medically speaking, says Smith, it's important to understand these differences and how they arise. "Even though many women hate having large hips and thighs, that pear shape actually reduces their risk of heart disease and diabetes. In fact, women who have heart attacks tend to have more belly fat than thigh fat." 

    This research marks a new way of thinking. "Most people want to stop belly fat. But the problem is not just the fat - it's the location. Belly fat is just a marker of the problem. The real issue is in inability to store that fat on the hips and thighs," he continues. 

    Smith hopes that future studies aimed at understanding the fundamental differences in these fat depots could lead to specific treatments aimed at the regions that contribute most to the complications of obesity.

    Discuss in the Heart1 forums!

    Photo: Zen New Jersey

    Last updated: 08-Jan-13

    Comments

  • Add Comment
  •    
    Interact on Heart1

    Discuss this topic with others.
     
    Feature Archives

    Heart Disease Patients Need to Exercise to Benefit from the Protective Effects of Wine

    Effective Treatment for Heart Failure Possible Following Discovery of Heart Molecule

    Significant Decrease in Heart Disease after Prison Smoking Bans

    Heart Failure Patients Who Sleep Poorly Are at Double the Risk for Hospitalization

    Long-Term Survival Possible for Pediatric Heart Transplant Patients

    Next 5 Features ...

    More Features ...
       
     
    Related Multimedia

    The risk of cardiac death due to a lower ejection fraction

    The function of a defibrillator

    Plaques/fatty deposits as a cause for a heart attack

    More Features ...
     
    Related Content
    Study: Liposuction Won't Improve Health

    Heart-Healthy Eating For People With Diabetes

    Study: 1 in 3 Adults Has Hypertension

    Keeping Your Teeth Healthy Keeps Your Heart Healthy Too

    Heart Disease, Alzheimer's Linked

    More Features ...
     
    Home About Us Press Jobs Advertise With Us Contact Us
    advertisement
    ©1999- 2014 Body1 All rights reserved.
    Disclaimer: The information provided within this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with your physician or healthcare provider. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Owners and Sponsors of this site. By using this site you agree to indemnify, and hold the Owners and Sponsors harmless, from any disputes arising from content posted here-in.