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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Sep 3;62(10):921-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2013.06.027. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Body fat distribution, incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



The aim of this study was to determine whether ectopic fat depots are prospectively associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.


The morbidity associated with excess body weight varies among individuals of similar body mass index. Ectopic fat depots may underlie this risk differential. However, prospective studies of directly measured fat are limited.


Participants from the Framingham Heart Study (n = 3,086; 49% women; mean age of 50.2 years) underwent assessment of fat depots (visceral adipose tissue, pericardial adipose tissue, and periaortic adipose tissue) using multidetector computed tomography and were followed up longitudinally for a median of 5.0 years. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to examine the association of each fat depot (per 1 SD increment) with the risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality after adjustment for standard risk factors, including body mass index.


Overall, there were 90 cardiovascular events, 141 cancer events, and 71 deaths. After multivariable adjustment, visceral adipose tissue was associated with cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio: 1.44; 95% confidence interval: 1.08 to 1.92; p = 0.01) and cancer (hazard ratio: 1.43; 95% confidence interval: 1.12 to 1.84; p = 0.005). Addition of visceral adipose tissue to a multivariable model that included body mass index modestly improved cardiovascular risk prediction (net reclassification improvement of 16.3%). None of the fat depots were associated with all-cause mortality.


Visceral adiposity is associated with incident cardiovascular disease and cancer after adjustment for clinical risk factors and generalized adiposity. These findings support the growing appreciation of a pathogenic role of ectopic fat.


BMI; CI; CVD; HR; MDCT; NRI; SAT; VAT; body fat distribution; body mass index; cancer; cardiovascular disease; confidence interval; hazard ratio; multidetector computed tomography; net reclassification index; obesity; subcutaneous adipose tissue; visceral adipose tissue; visceral fat

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