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Metabolism. 1999 Mar;48(3):355-62.

Relationship of visceral adipose tissue to metabolic risk factors for coronary heart disease: is there a contribution of subcutaneous fat cell hypertrophy?

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Lipid Research Center and Diabetes Research Unit, Laval University Medical Research Center, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada.


Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) accumulation is an important correlate of the metabolic complications found in obese patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the respective contribution of VAT deposition versus subcutaneous abdominal or femoral fat cell hypertrophy as correlates of the metabolic risk profile in 69 men and 65 premenopausal women (aged 35+/-5 years) with a wide range of fatness (body mass index, 18 to 57 kg/m2). In both genders, VAT accumulation was positively correlated with fasting plasma insulin, triglyceride (TG), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-apolipoprotein B (apo B) levels and the cholesterol (CHOL)/high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-CHOL ratio (.24 < or = r < or = .71, P < .05). A similar pattern of positive relationships was found between subcutaneous abdominal fat cell weight and metabolic risk variables in men and women (.33 < or = r < or = .60, P < .01). Positive associations were also observed in women between femoral fat cell weight and fasting plasma insulin, TG, and CHOL levels and the CHOL/HDL-CHOL ratio (.29 < or = r < or = .42, P < .05). However, only plasma TG concentrations and the CHOL/HDL-CHOL ratio were positively correlated with femoral fat cell weight in men (r = .30, P < .05). To better investigate the relationships between the metabolic risk profile and hypertrophic subcutaneous obesity, individuals with small versus large subcutaneous abdominal adipocytes were matched according to VAT accumulation. Men with large abdominal fat cells displayed higher plasma TG and LDL-apo B levels compared with men characterized by small abdominal adipocytes (P < .05). Stepwise multiple regression analyses showed that subcutaneous abdominal fat cell weight was the best independent variable predicting plasma TG and LDL-apo B levels in men. No significant difference was found in the metabolic profile of subjects displaying small versus large femoral adipocytes. Taken together, these results suggest that for a given VAT deposition, the presence of hypertrophied subcutaneous abdominal adipocytes in men appears to be associated with further deterioration in the metabolic risk profile. On the other hand, the hypertrophy of femoral adipocytes does not further alter the metabolic complications generally related to obesity in both men and women.

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