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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Feb;19(2):422-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.140. Epub 2010 Jun 17.

Sex differences in the association of thigh fat and metabolic risk in older adults.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, USA.


We have previously shown a favorable association of subcutaneous leg fat with markers of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia in postmenopausal women. It is not known whether there is a sex dimorphism in the association of lower-body adiposity with reduced metabolic risk. Thus, our primary aim was to determine whether the favorable association of thigh subcutaneous fat, independent of abdominal fat, is also observed in older men. Mid-thigh and abdominal fat areas were measured by computed tomography (CT) in 108 older men and postmenopausal women (mean ± s.d.; 69 ± 7 years). Additionally, trunk and leg fat mass (FM) were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Markers of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia were determined from oral glucose tolerance tests and lipid and lipoprotein measurements, respectively. Outcomes were fasted and postchallenge (area under the curve, AUC) insulin (INS(AUC)) and glucose (GLU(AUC)), product of the insulin and glucose AUC (INS(AUC) × GLU(AUC)), triglycerides (TG), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol. Consistent with our previous findings in postmenopausal women, adjusting for DXA trunk FM revealed a favorable association of DXA leg FM with the metabolic risk outcomes in both older men and postmenopausal women. Likewise, adjusting for CT abdominal visceral fat generally revealed a favorable association of CT thigh fat with metabolic risk outcomes in women, but not men. The discordance between the DXA and CT results in men is unclear but may be due to sex differences in visceral fat accrual. The mechanisms underlying the protective effect of thigh fat on metabolic risk factors need to be elucidated.

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