A study warns that people who are genetically inclined to storing belly fat may be at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
"People vary in their distribution of body fat - some put fat in their belly, which we call abdominal adiposity and some in their hips and thighs," says Sekar Kathiresan, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"We tested whether genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity was associated with the risk for Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease and found that the answer was a firm 'yes'," Kathiresan added.
Previous research had identified 48 gene variants associated with waist-to-hip ratio, resulting in a genetic risk score.
For the new study, appearing in the journal of JAMAA, the team analysed the genomes of a total research group of more than 400,000 individuals.
The findings showed that genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity is associated with significant increases in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, along with increases in blood lipids, blood glucose and systolic blood pressure.
No association was found between the genetic risk score and lifestyle factors and testing confirmed that only the abdominal adiposity effects of the identified gene variants were associated with cardiometabolic risk.
"The lack of association between the body type genetic risk score and confounding factors such as diet and smoking provides strong evidence that abdominal adiposity itself contributes to causing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease," explained Connor Emdin, from the Massachusetts General Hospital.