It’s all going pear-shaped for the notion that, when it comes to health, being shaped like a pear beats being shaped like an apple.
That’s according to UC Davis researchers, who believe they have partly deflated the commonly held belief that a person with more fat around the abdomen is at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease than those who carry weight lower on their bodies.
The UCD researchers found that gluteal adipose tissues — that’s fat stored in the buttocks — secretes abnormal levels of chemerin and omentin-1: proteins that correlate with other risk factors shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
“Fat in the abdomen has long been considered the most detrimental to health, and gluteal fat was thought to protect against diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome,” said Ishwarlal Jialal, lead author of the study published online this month in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, in a news release.
“But our research helps to dispel the myth that gluteal fat is ‘innocent.’ ”
Researchers found that in a group of 45 patients with early metabolic syndrome, gluteal fat secreted elevated levels of chemerin and reduced levels of omentin-1 when compared to a control group — independent of the patients’ age, body mass index and waist size.
Metabolic syndrome affects about 35 percent of people ages 20 and over. It refers to risk factors that dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Among them: having a large waistline, high blood pressure and low levels of so-called “good cholesterol.”
Jialal, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and of internal medicine, said high chemerin levels show promise as an indicator of metabolic syndrome. They are also an indicator of inflammation and insulin resistance and could perhaps be used to identify high-risk obesity.
“The good news is that with weight loss, you can reduce chemerin levels along with the risk for metabolic syndrome,” Jialal said.
Funded by the American Diabetes Association, the study also drew on work from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Vanderbilt University.