Scientists identify actual causal connect of obesity to heart disease

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd May 2012

Danish scientists say they have found evidence that obesity is not only linked to higher risk of heart disease, but it actually causes heart disease.

A study conducted by Børge Nordestgaard of Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark and colleagues, used data from observational studies. The study found a causal relationship between body mass index (BMI) and risk for heart disease.

This means that any increase in BMI increases the risk of heart disease – there is no threshold below which a BMI increase has no effect on heart diseas risk.

The findings, published in this week’s PLoS Medicine jourhnal, have important implications for public health policy because they show that the association between BMI (which is modifiable by lifestyle changes) and IHD is continuous.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults in developed countries.

The researchers analyzed data from two population-based studies in which adults were physically examined and answered a lifestyle questionnaire before being followed to see how many developed heart disease. They also analyzed data from a case-control study on heart disease (in a case-control study, people with a disease are matched with similar people without the disease and the occurrence of risk factors in the patients and controls is compared).

Overall, the researchers measured the BMI of 75,627 white individuals, among whom 11,056 already had heart disease or developed it.

The authors stated, “These findings support a causal link between increased BMI and heart disease, although it may be that BMI affects heart disease risk through factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes.

“Thus, public-health policies that aim to reduce BMI by even moderate levels could substantially reduce the occurrence of heart disease in populations.”