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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2007 May;27(5):996-1003. Epub 2007 Feb 15.

Adipose tissue and atherosclerosis: exploring the connection.

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  • 1Department of Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.


The prevalence of obesity, especially among the young, is dramatically increasing in the United States. Obesity is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis and increased rates of cardiovascular death. There are many plausible mechanisms by which an increase in adipose tissue could adversely affect the vessel wall. These include the changes in blood pressure, glucose level, lipid/lipoprotein metabolism, and systemic inflammation. In addition, factors secreted by adipose tissue may directly influence vessel wall homeostasis by influencing the function of endothelial cells, arterial smooth muscle cells, and macrophages in the vessel wall. There is general agreement that central, as opposed to peripheral, adipose tissue confers the most cardio-metabolic risk. Although the basis of this differential risk has not been not established, the pattern of gene expression and secretory products in visceral fat would be predicted to be more atherogenic compared with that in subcutaneous peripheral fat. Numerous studies have shown the beneficial effects of weight loss on markers of cardiovascular risk but fewer have demonstrated improvement in direct measures of large vessel disease. The unfolding role of adipose tissue as an important metabolic and secretory organ provides new opportunities for developing more effective approaches for preventing obesity and its atherosclerotic complications.

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