Genetic link between body shape and heart disease
A study originating from Massachusetts General Hospital has found that a pattern of gene variants associated with certain body shapes increases the risk of T2DM as well as heart disease. This ‘apple-shape’ describes when weight is commonly deposited around the abdomen, rather than the hips and thighs. The researchers were aiming to discover whether a genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity was associated with the risk of T2DM and coronary heart disease, they concluded that it certainly does.
Due to the many factors that contribute to the development of heart disease the researchers had to employ a method called Mendelian randomisation, which measures whether an inherited gene variant can cause the development of a disease. They used previous research which identified 48 different gene variants as responsible for abdominal adiposity and developed a genetic risk score. They combined this with data from the UK Biobank to determine any association. Whilst they found an association between genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity and heart disease, they did not find any between lifestyle factors and genetic risk score. This therefore confirmed that the gene variants responsible for body shape were associated with cardiometabolic risk. The results may allow physicians to use body shape as a predictor for heart disease and T2DM in the future, however further research must be undertaken to identify any other gene variants that may be responsible.