High levels of the so-called fat hormone leptin in the blood reduce blood vessels' ability to dilate, and also affect blood clotting — all of which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, new research shows.
The findings, by Umeå University researchers, may explain the key link between belly fat and cardiovascular disease.
"These findings are of great importance for the understanding of the factors linking cardiovascular disease to obesity and will hopefully stimulate further studies in this exciting area of research," said lead researcher Manuel Gonzalez, M.D.
Numerous population studies have shown that overweight people, especially those with abdominal obesity, have a higher risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. But the underlying mechanisms have been unknown.
But the new research demonstrated leptin in the blood is a key factor, based on studies involving young men injected with the hormone. Gonzalez — a physician and specialist in cardiology at Norrlands University Hospital — found the injections modified the functions of blood vessels in ways that raise the risk of heart attack.
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