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Obesity is related to the risk for developing non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) has been proposed to mediate these relationships. Abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) is divided into 2 layers by a fascia, the fascia superficialis. Little is known about the radiologic anatomy or metabolic correlates of these depots. The objective of this study was to relate the amounts of VAT, SAT, deep subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (DSAT), and superficial subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SSAT) to gender and the metabolic complications of obesity after adjusting for total body fat and to discuss the implications of these findings on the measurement of adipose tissue mass and adipose tissue function. The design was a cross-sectional database study set in a nutrition research center. Subjects included 199 volunteers participating in nutrition research protocols who also had computed tomography (CT) and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) measurement of body fat. The amount of DSAT was sexually dimorphic, with women having 51% of the subcutaneous abdominal fat in the deep layer versus 66% for men (P < .05). Abdominal fat compartments were compared with metabolic variables before and after adjusting for body fat measured by DEXA using 2 separate methods. The unadjusted correlation coefficients between the body fat measures, R2, were largest for fasting insulin and triglyceride and smaller for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and blood pressure. A large portion of the variance of fasting insulin levels in both men and women was explained by total body fat. In both men and women, the addition of VAT and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue depots only slightly increased the R2. In men, when body fat compartments were considered independently, DSAT explained a greater portion of the variance (R2 = .528) in fasting insulin than VAT (R2 = .374) or non-VAT, non-DSAT subcutaneous adipose tissue (R2 = .375). These data suggest that total body fat is a major contributor to the metabolic sequelae of obesity, with specific fat depots, VAT, and DSAT also making significant contributions.
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☆Supported by Genentech Foundation for Growth and Development (S.R.S.) and the US Department of Agriculture Grant No. 96034323-3031 (S.R.S., J.C.L., L.D., and G.A.B.).
© 2001 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.