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Prog Nucl Magn Reson Spectrosc. 2013 Aug;73:56-80. doi: 10.1016/j.pnmrs.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 May 13.

Whole body fat: content and distribution.

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Metabolic and Molecular Imaging Group, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Obesity and its co-morbidities, including type II diabetes, insulin resistance and cardiovascular diseases, have become one of the biggest health issues of present times. The impact of obesity goes well beyond the individual and is so far-reaching that, if it continues unabated, it will cause havoc with the economies of most countries. In order to be able to fully understand the relationship between increased adiposity (obesity) and its co-morbidity, it has been necessary to develop proper methodology to accurately and reproducibly determine both body fat content and distribution, including ectopic fat depots. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Spectroscopy (MRS) have recently emerged as the gold-standard for accomplishing this task. Here, we will review the use of different MRI techniques currently being used to determine body fat content and distribution. We also discuss the pros and cons of MRS to determine ectopic fat depots in liver, muscle, pancreas and heart and compare these to emerging MRI techniques currently being put forward to create ectopic fat maps. Finally, we will discuss how MRI/MRS techniques are helping in changing the perception of what is healthy and what is normal and desirable body-fat content and distribution.


(1)H MR Spectroscopy; Adipose tissue; Ectopic Fat; IHCL; IMCL; MRI; Visceral fat

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