The link between obesity and heart failure

A large Swedish study has confirmed the link between obesity and cardiovascular disease, an association that has long been known but only partially understood.

In some studies, obesity has been shown to be an underlying cause of other symptoms that might cause heart disease, like high blood pressure or diabetes.

But new research shows that specific gene variants that lead to increased BMI are directly linked to increased risk of heart failure and other serious medical conditions.

FTO gene

The study included nearly 200,000 subjects and aimed to determine how a gene variant in the FTO gene – which regulates appetite – could contribute to the development of certain health problems. The risk variant is common in the general population, the study authors noted, and each additional copy of the risk variant can increase an individual's BMI by about 0.3-0.4 units.

An individual's genome is established at conception, the researchers said, and can't be affected by lifestyle factors.

Erik Ingelsson, professor at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, elaborated:

Epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations, but it is usually difficult to reliably determine cause and effect - what we call causality. By using this new genetic method, Mendelian randomization, in our research, we can now confirm what many people have long believed, that increased BMI contributes to the development of heart failure.

Other concerns

Results also showed that a one-unit increase of BMI can raise the risk of developing heart failure by 20 percent. Like other research on the subject, the Swedish study also confirmed that obesity leads to inflammation, higher blood pressure, higher insulin and dangerous cholesterol levels – all precursors for diabetes.

"We also found that [obesity] causes increases in liver enzymes," Ingelsson said. "This knowledge is important, as it strengthens the evidence that forceful societal measures need to be taken to counteract the epidemic of obesity and its consequences."

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.

Source: Alpha Galileo Foundation

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