You may have heard about how people who are ‘apple-shaped’ - with fat concentrated around their abdomen - are more at risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who are ‘pear-shaped’, carrying more weight in their buttocks, hips and thighs.
Unfortunately, new research conducted at UC Davis Health System reveals that the apparent benefits of having a pear-shaped body may be more myth than reality.
Researchers found that buttock or gluteal fat secretes abnormal levels of chemerin and omentin-1, two proteins that lead to inflammation and a pre-diabetic condition known as insulin resistance in individuals with early metabolic syndrome.
The study authors recruited 45 patients who had at least three risk factors for metabolic syndrome, while a control gender and age-matched group of 30 subjects had less than two risk factors. Complete blood counts, lipid profiles and blood glucose, blood pressure and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were measured in all participants.
Chemerin levels were increased and omentin-1 levels were decreased in both plasma and gluteal fat of subjects with metabolic syndrome, compared to controls independently of age, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of related risk factors that can occur together, doubling the risk for heart disease and increasing the risk for diabetes roughly five-fold. These include having a large waistline, low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), high blood pressure (BP) as well as high fasting blood sugar and high triglyceride levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), metabolic syndrome affects roughly 35% of American adults over the age of 20 years.
Abdominal fat has long been believed to be the most detrimental to health - but now this new study suggests that abnormal protein levels in gluteal fat may be just as bad. In fact they may turn out to be an early indicator in people at risk for developing metabolic syndrome.
Gluteal fat in individuals with early metabolic syndrome secreted elevated levels of chemerin and low levels of omentin-1, both of which increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. High chemerin levels were found to correlate with four of the five characteristics of metabolic syndrome, so it may be a promising biomarker for this condition.
As it's also an indicator of inflammation and insulin resistance, chemerin could become part of a biomarker panel to define high-risk obesity states.
These novel results led the study authors to state that in the future, large epidemiological studies should focus on looking at the role of chemerin as a biomarker for the development of diabetes and heart disease in patients with metabolic syndrome.