Abdominal fat indicates severity of metabolic syndrome in obese, postmenopausal women

October 14, 2004

Chevy Chase, MD - New research shows that the presence of intra-abdominal fat can indicate the existence and severity of metabolic syndrome in obese, postmenopausal women. The findings, which will be published in the November issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, could help doctors identify health risks in aging women. The research will be presented today in Washington, DC at the American Medical Association's 23rd Annual Science Writer's Conference.

Research has shown that obesity is linked to metabolic syndrome, which has several known risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased levels of fasting glucose and an increase in waist circumference. Yet, not all obese individuals present all of these symptoms. Following menopause, many women experience a natural increase in obesity, particularly around their intra-abdominal area, which refers to fat that stored in and around the internal organs. As a result, it can be difficult for doctors to detect metabolic syndrome in these patients.

Dr. Barbara Nicklas and researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine sought to determine whether specific criteria can be used to determine the existence and severity of metabolic syndrome. To do this, they evaluated the presence of metabolic syndrome by testing aerobic capacity, body composition, body fat distribution and inflammation in 58 obese, postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 70 years. Metabolic syndrome, which was indicated by three or more characteristics defined in the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program, was found in 27 women (47 percent).

By examining the characteristics in all of the women, Dr. Nicklas and her colleagues discovered that lean mass, intra-abdominal fat and a circulating biomarker of inflammation also known as soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (sTNFR1), were significantly higher in women with metabolic syndrome. Additionally, Dr. Nicklas and her team found that these three characteristics were independently related to the severity of metabolic syndrome in the women, which indicates that analysis of these factors could help doctors identify women who are at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.

"There are many existing questions about the health risks of obesity in postmenopausal women. Our findings confirm that specific characteristics, particularly intra-abdominal fat, are important in determining the presence of metabolic syndrome in these women," explains Dr. Nicklas. "We have also shown, for the first time, that specific characteristics, such as intra-abdominal fat, can indicate the severity of metabolic syndrome. This information should help doctors evaluate the health risks for postmenopausal women and design a treatment plan to lessen the women's risk. "
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JCEM is one of four journals published by The Endocrine Society. Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones, and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Endocrinologists are specially trained doctors who diagnose, treat and conduct basic and clinical research on complex hormonal disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, obesity, hypertension, cholesterol and reproductive disorders. Today, The Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 11,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students, in more than 80 countries. Together, these members represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society, and the field of endocrinology, visit the Society's web site at www.endo-society.org.

The Endocrine Society

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