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Each one-unit increase in BMI ups heart failure risk by 17%

Researchers have demonstrated that a one unit increase in body mass index (BMI) increases the risk of heart failure by 17%, in a genetic analysis that appears to confirm for the first time that excess fat is a direct cause of the disease.

The study

Researchers studied the role of BMI in the development of heart failure, as well as with a raft of outcome measures, in a genetic study of 36 population-based studies in up to 198,502 people.

The team looked at the association of an obesity related gene variant at the FTO (fat-mass and obesity associated gene) locus with BMI, as well as of the FTO variant and of BMI with 24 outcomes measures, including heart failure. They then used a type of genetic analysis called instrumental variable analysis to determine whether BMI was causally related to these outcomes.

The findings

The team found that BMI showed a causal relationship with heart failure, with a hazard ratio of 1.17 per BMI-unit increase. They also replicated previous study findings that BMI is causally associated with hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome. However, no causal relationship was found between BMI and other outcomes, including coronary heart disease and stroke.

What this means for GPs

The researchers say their findings reinforce the need to address the problem of obesity specifically, in order to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart failure.

They conclude: ‘These results support global prevention efforts for obesity in order to decrease costs and suffering from type 2 diabetes and heart failure.’

PLOS Medicine 2013; 10: e1001474

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