Body Fat Might Be Healthy for Type 1 Diabetics

The finding is no reason for them to become obese, however, researchers add

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SUNDAY, June 24, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- For people with type 1 diabetes, a little extra weight may be associated with better coronary health, new research shows.

According to a team at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, people with diabetes tend to develop cardiovascular disease at a much younger age than non-diabetics. Cardiovascular complications, including heart disease, are a leading cause of death among diabetics.

However, for people with the type 1, inherited form of the diabetes, "Gaining weight may reflect good or better treatment with insulin therapy, which may partly explain why participants who gained weight over time [in the study] had lower mortality rates," Dr. Trevor Orchard, professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues studied 315 patients with type 1 diabetes who took part in the 18-year Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, which began in 1986. CT scans were used to assess coronary artery calcification in the patients, who were also evaluated for body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, abdominal fat, and fat underneath the skin.

Coronary artery buildup of calcium is a known marker for heart disease.

Overall, the more fat a person had, the more likely they were to have coronary artery calcification. But among the two-thirds of patients with calcification, people with more fat had less severe calcification.

There were some gender-specific findings. Women with more fat under the skin had less calcification than those with less fat. Men with a higher BMI had less calcification than thinner men.

"This is not a firm recommendation to people with type 1 diabetes to put on weight, but it does raise the possibility that weight recommendations in type 1 diabetes may be somewhat different than those for the general population, and emphasizes the complex relationship between body fat and cardiovascular risk in diabetes," Orchard said.

The study was to be presented at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting, June 22-26, in Chicago.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about type 1 diabetes.

SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, news release, June 23, 2007

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