Where the body stores fat can have serious systemic effects on health, according to Dr. Amy Alman, assistant professor in the University of South Florida College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
Dr. Alman’s research found that higher levels of pericardial fat, which is fat deposited around the heart, is associated with higher rates of diabetes in adults.
Rather than focusing on visceral body fat, the total body mass index or the total amount of fat on the body, Dr. Alman decided to focus on ectopic fat around the heart, also known as pericardial adipose tissue.
Ectopic fat is the type of fat that accumulates in areas of the body that normally does not store large amounts of fat, such as the liver, in between muscles and the heart.
“A lot of research has shown associations between visceral adipose tissue and health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But, fat accumulates in other areas as well,” Dr. Alman said.
Dr. Alman’s research “Higher pericardial adiposity is associated with prevalent diabetes: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults,” was published online in Dec. 2015 in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease.
“We have a big epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in this country, and obesity and Type 2 diabetes are very strongly linked,” Dr. Alman said. “The question is whether fat distribution is more important than overall volume.”