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'Apple shape' heart risk doubt

11th March 2011

A new study in The Lancet has raised doubts over whether being overweight and having an “apple-shaped” body increases the risk of heart attack.

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Findings from a Cambridge University team suggest that the risk of heart attack was not increased by fat being concentrated around the waist.

This contradicts previous evidence with had indicated that people who were apple shaped were three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who had fat more evenly distributed around their bodies.

Writing in the journal, study leader Professor John Danesh said: “Whether assessed singly or in combination, body-mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio do not improve prediction of first-onset cardiovascular disease when additional information exists on blood pressure, history of diabetes, and cholesterol measures.”

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

However, BHF associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton warned that obesity was still bad for heart health.

“This study suggests that measuring your waist is no better than calculating your BMI but it's not time to throw away the tape measure just yet,” he said.

“We should also remember there are other heart risk factors we need to think about too, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.”

Professor Stephen Holgate of the MRC said the main worry about obesity was that it led to other illnesses.

He stressed that around three-fifths of type 2 diabetes and 20% of heart disease cases are attributable to excess body fat, along with some cancers.

 

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