islamabad - Researchers have found that abdominal fat may either cause or relate to the cause of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease . People who are genetically at a greater risk of having a higher waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index are likely to have an increased risk of developing these conditions.

Dr Sekar Kathiresan, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted a study to investigate whether being genetically inclined to have an increased waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) adjusted for BMI (a measure of abdominal fat) was linked to cardiometabolic traits (such as lipids, glucose, insulin, and systolic blood pressure), and type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease .

Analysis did show that being genetically predisposed to a higher WHR adjusted for BMI was connected with increased levels of quantitative risk factors, including lipids, glucose, insulin, and systolic blood pressure, and a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease .

Secondly, the findings suggest that the distribution of body fat, beyond BMI measurement, could partly explain the disparity in risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease that is reported in both individuals and subpopulations.

“For example, increased abdominal adiposity at a given BMI has been proposed as an explanation for the excess risk of coronary heart disease observed in South Asians,” the authors explain. Similarly, greater abdominal adipose tissue at a given BMI has been proposed to underlie the excess risk of coronary heart disease at a given BMI among men compared with women,” they add.

Lastly, WHR adjusted for BMI may lead to novel therapeutic strategies for the reduction of abdominal fat and decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease .

“Although a substantial focus of drug development has been toward therapeutics to reduce overall adiposity, there has been little effort toward the development of therapies that modify body fat distribution to reduce abdominal adiposity,” say the authors. Kathiresan and team concluded. “These results provide evidence supportive of a causal association between abdominal adiposity and the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease .”

Meanwhile a new study suggests that a gluten-free diet may pose serious health risks, after finding that the eating pattern may raise the risk of exposure to arsenic and mercury.

A gluten-free diet excludes foods that contain gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as the by-products of these grains.

For people with celiac disease - an autoimmune condition whereby gluten intake leads to intestinal damage - a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for the condition.

Rice flour is a common substitute for gluten in many gluten-free products. Argos and colleagues point out that rice can bioaccumulate arsenic, mercury, and other potentially harmful toxic metals from water, soil, or fertilizers.

Exposure to these metals has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases.

The researchers identified 73 participants aged between 6 and 80 who reported following a gluten-free diet.

Blood and urine samples were taken from all participants and assessed for levels of arsenic and mercury.

The researchers found that levels of each toxic metal were much higher among subjects who followed a gluten-free diet than those who did not eat gluten-free products; mercury levels were 70 percent higher in the blood of gluten-free subjects, while arsenic levels in urine were almost twice as high.

According to Argos, these findings suggest that there may be “unintended consequences of eating a gluten-free diet,” though further studies are needed to confirm whether this is the case.

The researchers added, “With the increasing popularity of gluten-free diets, these findings may have important health implications since the health effects of low-level arsenic and mercury exposure from food sources are uncertain but may increase the risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. Although we can only speculate, rice may be contributing to the observed higher concentrations of metal biomarkers among those on a gluten-free diet as the primary substitute grain in gluten-free products.” Argos points out that there are regulations in Europe that limit arsenic levels in food products, and he suggests that the United States might benefit from similar regulations.

“We regulate levels of arsenic in water, but if rice flour consumption increases the risk for exposure to arsenic, it would make sense to regulate the metal in foods as well,” he adds.