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Arteriosclerosis. 1990 Jul-Aug;10(4):497-511.

Regional distribution of body fat, plasma lipoproteins, and cardiovascular disease.

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  • 1Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada.


Several epidemiological studies have reported that the regional distribution of body fat is a significant and independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and related mortality. Although these associations are well established, the causal mechanisms are not fully understood. Numerous studies have, however, shown that specific topographic features of adipose tissue are associated with metabolic complications that are considered as risk factors for CVD such as insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance and type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and changes in the concentration of plasma lipids and lipoproteins. The present article summarizes the evidence on the metabolic correlates of body fat distribution. Potential mechanisms for the association between body fat distribution, metabolic complications, and CVD are reviewed, with an emphasis on plasma lipoprotein levels and plasma lipid transport. From the evidence available, it seems likely that subjects with visceral obesity represent the subgroup of obese individuals with the highest risk for CVD. Although body fat distribution is now considered as a more significant risk factor for CVD and related death rate than obesity per se, further research is clearly needed to identify the determinants of body fat distribution and the causal mechanisms involved in the metabolic alterations. It appears certain, however, that an altered plasma lipid transport is a significant component of the relation between body fat distribution and CVD.

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