Losing weight could reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases linked to diabetes, a genetic study suggests.
Swedish researchers report that having a high BMI and high body fat leads to an increased risk of a complication called aortic valve stenosis. This develops when valve responsible for blood flow from the aorta, which is the largest blood vessel, begins to narrow and fails to open fully.
While it is established that being overweight and having excess body fat increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems, this study is the first of its kind to use the Mendelian randomisation method.
Mendelian studies provide evidence about causal relations between modifiable risk factors and disease and enables scientists to understand if the risk factor is the cause of the disease, rather than the opposite.
Professor Susanna Larsson, from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, led a team which examined 96 genetic variants linked to BMI and body fat mass to predict impact on 14 cardiovascular diseases. They applied this to a pool of 367,703 participants who were white-British descent from a health database called the UK Biobank, which has data on 500,000 people aged between 40 and 69 years.
The results revealed that those with genetic variants which predict higher BMI had an increased risk of developing aortic valve stenosis as well as a host of conditions, including heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, pulmonary embolism, coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation.
Genetic variants were shown to predispose people to be more likely to gain excess weight, although the researchers stressed that diet and physical activity are the most important factors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease.
Professor Larsson added: “Our genes can make us somewhat more predisposed to gain body weight but lifestyle factors, such as overeating and lack of physical activity, are the major determinants of overweight. A healthy diet is the cornerstone of cardiovascular disease prevention, and how much we eat should be limited to the amount of energy required to maintain a healthy body weight, which is a BMI of between 20 to 25 kg/m2. People who are predisposed to a higher BMI may need to work a bit harder to maintain a healthy weight.”
The research was published in the European Heart Journal.
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