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Thursday 20th June 2019

Heart risk linked to 'lean gene'

28th June 2011

A team of European researchers has found that a gene associated with skinnier body shapes is also linked to a risk of heart disease.


People who have it may look thin from the outside but carry more fat around their internal organs rather than under the skin, which is what gives the appearance of fatness.

They are at risk of greater insulin resistance, diabetes and coronary artery disease, according to a report published in Nature Genetics.

Researchers from the Netherlands, UK, Finland and Germany said that their findings provided new insights into the way different body types store fat, and the relationship with insulin resistance, a characteristic of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to a number of life-threatening diseases.

Previously, genes that code for a thinner figure have been linked to a lower risk of such diseases.

But now the researchers say that the IRS1 gene reduces fat under the skin, but not the more dangerous visceral fat around organs such as the heart and liver.

They examined the genes of more than 76,000 people, and found a much stronger link between the "lean gene" and diabetes or heart disease in men than in women.

Lead researcher Ruth Loos, said the research had unveiled a fascinating genetic story, because it suggested that not only overweight people could be predisposed to a range of metabolic diseases.

Thinner people should not assume they were healthy based purely on their appearance, she said.

Health experts said the study could explain by around 20% of people with type-two diabetes are not overweight.

They said the report reinforced the notion that the location of fat in the body was just as important as the amount of fat carried, where heart risk was concerned.

But they cautioned that everyone should still try to maintain a healthy weight, adding that the research did not mean that being thin is bad for you.

The NHS Choices website said that the genetic variation in question only contributed a small amount to differences in body fat.

It said more research was needed to confirm that the IRS1 gene affected heart risk. 


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