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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Nov;19(11):2248-53. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.113. Epub 2011 May 26.

Lower extremity fat mass is associated with insulin resistance in overweight and obese individuals: the CARDIA study.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Lower extremity fat mass (LEFM) has been shown to be favorably associated with glucose metabolism. However, it is not clear whether this relationship is similar across varying levels of obesity. We hypothesized that lower amounts of LEFM is associated with higher insulin resistance (IR) and this association may vary according to weight status. Participants with available measures were examined from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (CARDIA), a multi-center longitudinal study of the etiology of atherosclerosis in black and white men and women aged 38-50 years old in 2005-2006 (n = 1,579). The homeostasis model assessment of IR (HOMA(IR)) was calculated to estimate IR, regional adiposity was measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and weight status was defined according to BMI categories. Obese and overweight participants exhibited higher IR, total fat mass (FM), trunk FM (TFM), and LEFM compared to normal weight participants. After controlling for age, height, race, study center, education, smoking, and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), greater LEFM was significantly associated with higher IR only in normal weight men and women. Further adjustment for TFM revealed that lower LEFM was significantly associated with higher IR in overweight and obese men and women and the positive association in normal weight individuals was attenuated. These results suggest that excess adiposity in the lower extremities may attenuate the metabolic risk observed at a given level of abdominal adiposity in overweight and obese individuals. Weight status presents additional complexity since the metabolic influence of adipose tissue may not be homogenous across anatomic regions or level of obesity.

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