Visceral fat and cardiometabolic risk

New publication of the Kardiovize research team of the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne’s University Hospital Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) deals with visceral fat, ie body fat that is stored around vital organs. “This is the first published study conducted in Central and Eastern Europe,” said Dr. Juan Pablo Gonzalez Rivas, Principal Investigator of Kardiovize team. “It turned out that we can’t use the values of visceral fat defined by colleagues in the USA or Japan to determine cardiovascular risk. The local population has very different values. ” The publication was published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice and can be found here:

A young researcher, Anna Polcrová, who studied Nutritional Therapy at the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University, Social Epidemiology at the Faculty of Science of Charles University and continued her studies at the Masaryk University while working in Kardiovize team. We asked her for a detailed explanation of not only the results of the study:

It is very well known that obesity is dangerous for the health, but it is not common to talk about visceral fat. What is visceral fat? And why is unhealthy?
The body fat can be stored in various areas. We basically distinguish between subcutaneous fat, which is located under the skin, and visceral fat, which is located inside abdominal area and surrounding our organs. The location of fat depot significantly affects its impact on our health. Previous research determined that a subcutaneously located fat depot is not as risky as visceral fat, because excess of visceral fat is related to more metabolic abnormalities, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, increased risk of thrombosis, or endothelial dysfunction.

How can be measured visceral fat? How do I know that if I have too much?
The gold standard method to measure visceral fat is computed tomography, but this is relatively expensive and exposes individuals to radiation. We can use bioelectrical impedance analysis, which is an advantageous method because it is simple, quick, low cost, non-invasiveness, and showed strong correlation with values measured by computed tomography. Bioimpedance is based on weak electricity flowing through the body and the voltage is measured in order to calculate impedance (resistance), allowing to determine the body composition, including visceral fat area. Although it may sound dangerous, this method is completely painless and can be used for people of any age. The only contraindication is the presence of a pacemaker or pregnancy. High amount of visceral fat is unhealthy, commonly used devices in Czechia use a cut-off of 100 cm2 to define high amount of visceral fat, however, this value came from Asian studies, that does not distinguish between genders, and has not been validated in the European population.

What is the main result of your study? And how this can benefit the European population?
Our results showed that the cut-offs of visceral fat related to cardiometabolic risk in the Czech population are different in comparison to previous studies in different populations. We observed that cut-offs of 90 cm2 for men and 109 cm2 for women were associated with the presence of cardiometabolic risk factors including high waist circumference, elevated blood pressure, reduced HDL-cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and impaired fasting glucose. Men showed a higher risk of cardiometabolic complication in lower values of visceral fat in comparison to women. In summary, the distinguishment of the high and low level of visceral fat and related cardiometabolic risk need to be based on cut-offs determined for a specific population, respecting gender differences.

You now have one year working with the Kardiovize team, how has been the experience working with them in ICRC? What have your learned?
I am very happy about the opportunity to work in the Kardiovize team. This team is open to share their experience and support junior researchers. Over the past 12 months, I have published 3 articles (1 as a first author), collaborated in a grant proposal, and we are working on an intervention to reduce the cardiometabolic risk of people from Brno with a lifestyle program. Moreover, thanks to my experience in Kardiovize, I started to study Ph.D. program in Environmental health sciences at RECETOX in Masaryk University. This combination is creating an amazing space for me to further develop my research in the fields of my passion – lifestyle, health literacy, and social determinants of health.