Can being obese prevent heart disease?

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For a long time now, obesity has been recognised as a risk factor in the development of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. However, a recent study published by a research group at the University of Oxford has found that obese people may have a better survival rate after having a heart attack.

Around the heart are blood vessels called coronary arteries. These blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen to the heart muscle, keeping it healthy and functioning at full capacity.

A large part of the heart arteries are encased in fatty tissue. The study shows that this fat that surrounds these blood vessels could in fact help fight heart disease and reduce the chances of developing a heart attack.

Normally, the process of atherosclerosis is responsible for the narrowing of blood vessels and the development of heart attacks. The process is triggered by the presence of harmful free radicals and oxidant products that stimulate the development of atherosclerotic plaques.

According to this study, led by Professor Charalambos Antoniades, the fat tissue that surrounds the arteries releases certain anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce damage from these harmful products.

But not all fat is good. Only a certain type of fat called the ‘good fats’ is helpful in preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease. Professor Antonaides says: “fat has a bad reputation but we’re learning more and more about how and why certain types of fat in the body are actually essential for good heart health. These findings are an important step towards a treatment that ensures this fat stays on-side throughout our lives to help prevent heart disease.”

While this is interesting and exciting research, it is still important to recognise that being overweight does have additional consequences on health, and does not only have an impact on the heart. New research is being conducted that will provide insights into what the true effects of being overweight are on heart disease and diabetes.

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