Utah Researchers Examine Link Between Obesity, Heart Failure

Utah Researchers Examine Link Between Obesity, Heart Failure

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- University of Utah researchers will use a $1.9 million grant to study how obesity and diabetes affect the heart.

Scientists know that obesity can cause the heart to stop using insulin properly, but it is unclear exactly how that happens.

Overweight people who develop type 2 diabetes have a high rate of heart failure.

With the five-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, University of Utah scientists are hoping to better understand why obese people's hearts stop using insulin.

Endocrinologist Dr. E. Dale Abel, assistant professor of internal medicine and biochemistry, is leading the study with co-investigator Dr. Sheldon E. Litwin, cardiologist and associate professor of internal medicine.

They say current health trends lend urgency to their work.

Heart disease is a major cause of death for obese people, Abel said. But the mechanism that leads to the increased risk is only partially understood. Obesity rates are increasing, and both heart problems and diabetes have increased significantly along with it.

As people become overweight and develop type 2 diabetes, the ability of the cells to respond to insulin is impaired. The hormone insulin is made by the pancreas. When you eat a meal, the insulin level rises, causing certain tissues like muscle to take up glucose. When that doesn't happen, people become diabetic.

When insulin resistance occurs and the proper signal doesn't get into the heart's muscle cells, potentially toxic substances collect, which in turn seems to lead to heart enlargement and then reduced ability of the heart to do its job. Often, the result is reduced ability to recover from heart attack and the development of chronic heart failure.

The two researchers will use mice that have a type of obesity that leads to diabetes for the study.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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