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      Abdominal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue: A Protective Fat Depot?

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          Abstract

          OBJECTIVE

          Obesity is associated with increased metabolic and cardiovascular risk. The ectopic fat hypothesis suggests that subcutaneous fat may be protective, but this theory has yet to be fully explored.

          RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

          Participants from the Framingham Heart Study ( n = 3,001, 48.5% women) were stratified by visceral adipose tissue (VAT) into sex-specific tertiles. Within these tertiles, age-adjusted abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) tertiles were examined in relation to cardiometabolic risk factors.

          RESULTS

          In the lowest VAT tertile, risk factor prevalence was low, although systolic blood pressure in women and rates of high triglycerides, impaired fasting glucose, hypertension, and the metabolic syndrome in men increased with increasing SAT tertile (all P < 0.04). In contrast, in the top VAT tertile, lower triglycerides were observed in men with increasing SAT (64.4% high triglycerides in SAT tertile 1 vs. 52.7% in SAT tertile 3, P = 0.03). Similar observations were made for women, although results were not statistically significant (50.6% high triglycerides in SAT tertile 1 vs. 41.0% in tertile 3, P = 0.10). Results in the highest VAT tertile were notable for a lack of increase in the prevalence of low HDL in men and women and in rates of impaired fasting glucose in men with increasing subcutaneous fat, despite sizable differences in BMI across SAT tertiles (27.1 to 36.3 kg/m 2[women]; 28.1 to 35.7 kg/m 2[men]).

          CONCLUSIONS

          Although adiposity increases the absolute risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease, abdominal subcutaneous fat is not associated with a linear increase in the prevalence of all risk factors among the obese, most notably, high triglycerides.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study.

          Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) compartments may confer increased metabolic risk. The incremental utility of measuring both visceral and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SAT) in association with metabolic risk factors and underlying heritability has not been well described in a population-based setting. Participants (n=3001) were drawn from the Framingham Heart Study (48% women; mean age, 50 years), were free of clinical cardiovascular disease, and underwent multidetector computed tomography assessment of SAT and VAT volumes between 2002 and 2005. Metabolic risk factors were examined in relation to increments of SAT and VAT after multivariable adjustment. Heritability was calculated using variance-components analysis. Among both women and men, SAT and VAT were significantly associated with blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and with increased odds of hypertension, impaired fasting glucose, diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome (P range < 0.01). In women, relations between VAT and risk factors were consistently stronger than in men. However, VAT was more strongly correlated with most metabolic risk factors than was SAT. For example, among women and men, both SAT and VAT were associated with increased odds of metabolic syndrome. In women, the odds ratio (OR) of metabolic syndrome per 1-standard deviation increase in VAT (OR, 4.7) was stronger than that for SAT (OR, 3.0; P for difference between SAT and VAT < 0.0001); similar differences were noted for men (OR for VAT, 4.2; OR for SAT, 2.5). Furthermore, VAT but not SAT contributed significantly to risk factor variation after adjustment for body mass index and waist circumference (P < or = 0.01). Among overweight and obese individuals, the prevalence of hypertension, impaired fasting glucose, and metabolic syndrome increased linearly and significantly across increasing VAT quartiles. Heritability values for SAT and VAT were 57% and 36%, respectively. Although both SAT and VAT are correlated with metabolic risk factors, VAT remains more strongly associated with an adverse metabolic risk profile even after accounting for standard anthropometric indexes. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesized role of visceral fat as a unique, pathogenic fat depot. Measurement of VAT may provide a more complete understanding of metabolic risk associated with variation in fat distribution.
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            Prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and obesity-related health risk factors, 2001.

            Obesity and diabetes are increasing in the United States. To estimate the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among US adults in 2001. Random-digit telephone survey of 195 005 adults aged 18 years or older residing in all states participating in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2001. Body mass index, based on self-reported weight and height and self-reported diabetes. In 2001 the prevalence of obesity (BMI > or =30) was 20.9% vs 19.8% in 2000, an increase of 5.6%. The prevalence of diabetes increased to 7.9% vs 7.3% in 2000, an increase of 8.2%. The prevalence of BMI of 40 or higher in 2001 was 2.3%. Overweight and obesity were significantly associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status. Compared with adults with normal weight, adults with a BMI of 40 or higher had an odds ratio (OR) of 7.37 (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.39-8.50) for diagnosed diabetes, 6.38 (95% CI, 5.67-7.17) for high blood pressure, 1.88 (95% CI,1.67-2.13) for high cholesterol levels, 2.72 (95% CI, 2.38-3.12) for asthma, 4.41 (95% CI, 3.91-4.97) for arthritis, and 4.19 (95% CI, 3.68-4.76) for fair or poor health. Increases in obesity and diabetes among US adults continue in both sexes, all ages, all races, all educational levels, and all smoking levels. Obesity is strongly associated with several major health risk factors.
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              Beneficial effects of subcutaneous fat transplantation on metabolism.

              Subcutaneous (SC) and visceral (VIS) obesity are associated with different risks of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. To elucidate whether these differences are due to anatomic location or intrinsic differences in adipose depots, we characterized mice after transplantation of SC or VIS fat from donor mice into either SC or VIS regions of recipient mice. The group with SC fat transplanted into the VIS cavity exhibited decreased body weight, total fat mass, and glucose and insulin levels. These mice also exhibited improved insulin sensitivity during hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps with increased whole-body glucose uptake, glucose uptake into endogenous fat, and insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production. These effects were observed to a lesser extent with SC fat transplanted to the SC area, whereas VIS fat transplanted to the VIS area was without effect. These data suggest that SC fat is intrinsically different from VIS fat and produces substances that can act systemically to improve glucose metabolism.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                1National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts;
                2Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;
                3Department of Mathematics, Boston University and School of Public Health, Division of Biostatistics, Boston, Massachusetts;
                4Radiology Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;
                5Department of Cardiology and Preventive Medicine, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts;
                6Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;
                7Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Caroline S. Fox, foxca@ 123456nhlbi.nih.gov .
                Journal
                Diabetes Care
                diacare
                dcare
                Diabetes Care
                Diabetes Care
                American Diabetes Association
                0149-5992
                1935-5548
                June 2009
                5 March 2009
                : 32
                : 6
                : 1068-1075
                2681034
                19244087
                2280
                10.2337/dc08-2280
                © 2009 by the American Diabetes Association.

                Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.

                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: National Institutes of Health
                Award ID: 2K24HL04334
                Categories
                Original Research
                Cardiovascular and Metabolic Risk

                Endocrinology & Diabetes

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