Belly fat has long been blamed for obesity-related disease but it may actually only be something of an innocent bystander, U.S. researchers say.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests liver fat – intrahepatic triglyceride – may be the important risk factor for obesity-related metabolic disorders often linked to diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.
Many with belly fat also have a fatty liver, but when the researchers compared for insulin sensitivity and other factors in obese subjects matched for belly fat but with differing liver fat content, they found lower insulin sensitivity and higher tryglyceride secretion in those with fatty liver.
However, these differences were not observed when the subjects differed on amounts of belly fat but were matched on liver fat.
Fatty liver disease is reversible and this finding may mean a big health benefit might be gained through losing just a little body fat, but a lot of liver fat, the study says.
“In fact, even two days of calorie restriction can cause a large reduction in liver fat and improvement in liver insulin sensitivity,” senior investigator Dr. Samuel Klein of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis says in a statement.
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