SCIENTISTS who have traced the origins of so-called "bad" fat in the body say the discovery could help to understand and treat obesity.

A team from the Medical Research Council's (MRC) human genetics unit at Edinburgh University discovered that visceral fat - which forms around vital organs such as the heart and intestines - originates in the embryo.

Although all fat carries health risks, hidden visceral fat is said to be a much bigger threat than fat that sits under the skin. It can increase the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Lead author Dr You-Ying Chau said: "Determining the origins of good and bad fat has been one of the big unanswered questions in obesity."