Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Thin Gene Raises Heart Risks

Gene Links Low Body Fat in Some People to Higher Heart Disease, Diabetes Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 27, 2011 -- It's not how much fat you have, but where it's stored that may determine your health risk, according to a new study.

Researchers have isolated a gene in some people that is associated with low body fat but also a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, especially among men.

"In simple terms, it is not only overweight individuals who can be predisposed for these metabolic diseases," researcher Douglas P. Kiel, MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says in a news release.

The study suggests that the gene lowers the fat found underneath the skin but not the more harmful fat that surrounds the organs.

"Genetic variants may not only determine the amount of total fat in your body, but also what kind of fat you have,” Kiel says. “Some collections of fat, such as the kind located just under the skin, may actually be less harmful than the type located in the abdominal cavity, which may increase the risk of developing metabolic disease."

Gene Lowers Fat, Raises Risks

In the study, published in Nature Genetics, researchers analyzed the genetic makeup of more than 75,000 people and looked at associations between body fat and the risk of metabolic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

The results showed a variant of the gene IRS1 was strongly associated with low body fat and unhealthy levels of cholesterol and blood sugar, two risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers say people with this gene may be less able to store fat safely under the skin and may store it elsewhere in the body, where it may interfere with normal organ function.

"The effect may be more pronounced in men due to the different body fat distributions between the sexes, Ruth Loos, MD, of the Medical Research Council in the U.K., says in a news release. "Men store less fat than women, so they are more sensitive to changes in its distribution."

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner