Visceral Fat, Social Stress, Atherosclerosis Linked

Study shows social stress may exacerbate atherosclerosis by increasing visceral fat

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- There is a direct relationship between coronary artery atherosclerosis, a high visceral to subcutaneous abdominal fat ratio, and social stress, supporting the hypothesis that social stress may worsen coronary artery atherosclerosis by increasing the amount of visceral fat in the body, according to research published in the August issue of Obesity.

Carol A. Shively, Ph.D., of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues performed a study in adult female cynomolgus monkeys. These monkeys were chosen from a larger pool because they exhibited a higher plasma ratio of cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein following one month of a moderately atherogenic diet, and were considered to represent the subset of the female population at greatest risk for developing atherosclerosis. These 41 monkeys were then socially housed and continued on this diet for 32 months.

The researchers found that atherosclerosis was more extensive among female monkeys with a higher visceral to subcutaneous abdominal fat ratio. Females with a high ratio of visceral to subcutaneous abdominal fat were found to be relatively subordinate, socially isolated, received less grooming, and were subject to more aggression. Furthermore, the authors note, these monkeys were desensitized to circulating glucocorticoids, had impaired ovarian function, higher heart rates, and increased coronary artery atherosclerosis.

Shively and colleagues conclude that, "an effective strategy to reduce the detrimental effects of stress on coronary artery atherosclerosis may be to directly intervene on the social stressors promoting physiological stress responses including distribution of fat."

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Lisa Cockrell

Lisa Cockrell

Published on August 12, 2009

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