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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(3):271-80.

Active depression is associated with regional adiposity in the upper abdomen and the neck.

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  • 1Dept. of Diagnostic and International Radiology, Section on Experimental Radiology, University Hospital Tuebingen, Germany.



In major depression, the incidence of overweight, the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease is increased. Aim was to determine body fat distribution in depressive and healthy females using whole body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Measurements of total adipose tissue (TAT), visceral (VAT), and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SCAT) at the trunk and the whole body fat distribution along the body axis were performed and compared. Differences in body fat distribution between depressive and healthy females and their location were evaluated.


In total, 11 women with a depressive syndrome (major depression, MD) and 45 healthy female volunteers (HC) matched for age and body mass index were compared. Total tissue (TT), TAT, VAT, and SCAT were quantified using T1-weighted whole body MRI. Adipose tissue distribution was compared along the body axis.


MD patients showed higher adipose tissue volumes than the HC group. Especially in the upper abdomen, at the upper extremities and the neck, MD patients are characterized by a significantly higher adipose tissue mass compared to the HC group.


The results of this study confirm the hypothesis of a high stress level with a disturbed hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis leading to a Cushing-like habitus and high visceral fat levels. The increased fat levels at the arms, as well as the whole body fat may be well-founded by a lack of activity in depression. These effects should be evaluated in further longitudinal studies investigating patients with a depressive syndrome and after remission.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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