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Doctors say liver fat levels could determine disease risk

By Catherine Wolf, KWMU

St. Louis, MO –

St. Louis researchers said they've completed a study that shows measuring liver fat may be a better way to determine a person's risk for developing diabetes and heart disease than measuring belly fat.

Washington University's Dr. Samuel Klein led a study of obese people with varying amounts of belly and liver fat. He said those who had excess liver fat were more likely to develop metabolic problems that lead to diabetes and heart disease, than those who did not.

"If you measure their sensitivity to insulin with very careful measures that you can't detect with general clinical evaluation, you find the one with fat in the liver has increased insulin resistance and then will be more likely to develop these diseases in the future."

Doctors traditionally have considered excess belly fat to be the primary indicator of a person's risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. Klein said says testing liver fat levels could become a new way to judge risk.