WEDNESDAY, July 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) — For postmenopausal women with normal body mass index (BMI), higher percent trunk fat is associated with elevated cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, while higher percent leg fat is associated with lower CVD risk, according to a study published online June 30 in the European Heart Journal.

Guo-Chong Chen, Ph.D., from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and colleagues examined whether regional body fat deposits (trunk or leg fat) are associated with CVD risk among postmenopausal women with normal BMI. Data were included for 2,683 women with normal BMI (18.5 to <25 kg/m²).

The researchers found that 291 incident CVD cases occurred during a median 17.9 years of follow-up. Neither whole-body fat mass nor fat percentage was associated with CVD risk after adjustment for demographic, lifestyle, and clinical risk factors. Higher percent trunk fat correlated with increased CVD risk (highest versus lowest quartile hazard ratio, 1.91), while higher percent leg fat correlated with lower CVD risk (highest versus lowest quartile hazard ratio, 0.62). After further adjustment for waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio, the correlation for trunk fat was attenuated but remained significant. The risk of CVD was particularly high for higher percent trunk fat combined with lower percent leg fat (hazard ratio comparing extreme groups, 3.33).

“These findings highlight the importance of fat distribution beyond overall fat mass in the development of CVD,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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