The distribution of body fat appears to be more important than obesity itself in terms of women's risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders that raise the likelihood of heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and associates examined 58 obese women, with the goal of understanding why not all obese individuals are affected by metabolic syndrome.
All the participants were postmenopausal and sedentary, but only 27 exhibited three or more of the components of metabolic syndrome, which include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low HDL ("good" cholesterol), and a large waist circumference.
There were no differences in aerobic fitness, body weight, body mass index, fat mass, percent body fat, or the amount of subcutaneous fat between women who had metabolic syndrome and those who did not. However, lean mass and the amount of abdominal fat were significantly higher in the metabolic syndrome group, even after taking age into account.
Abdominal fat is probably the most important factor associated with the syndrome, said the researchers. There is some evidence that for individuals who lose weight with exercise rather than with dieting alone, there will be selective loss of (abdominal) fat. It seems that exercise causes intra-abdominal fat to be mobilized more quickly.
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