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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jan;100(1):227-34. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-4296.

Fat quality and incident cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and cancer mortality.

Author information

Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism (K.J.R., C.S.F.), Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study (K.J.R., A.P., M.T.L., B.E.K., R.S.V., J.M.Mu., C.S.F.) and Division of Intramural Research and the Center for Population Studies (K.J.R., A.P., M.T.L., C.S.F.), Framingham, Massachusetts, 01702; Department of Biostatistics (J.M.Ma.), Boston University School of Public Health; Department of Medicine (M.T.L.), Section of Gastroenterology; Department of Medicine (B.E.K., J.M.Mu.), Section of General Internal Medicine; and Department of Medicine (R.S.V., U.H.), Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology and Cardiology, Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, 02118; and Departments of Medicine and Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 02114.



Cellular characteristics of fat quality have been associated with cardiometabolic risk and can be estimated by computed tomography (CT) attenuation.


The aim was to determine the association between CT attenuation (measured in Hounsfield units [HU]) and clinical outcomes.


This was a prospective community-based cohort study using data from the Framingham Heart Study (n = 3324, 48% women, mean age 51 years) and Cox proportional hazard models.


The primary outcomes of interest were incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality. The secondary outcomes of interest were incident cancer, non-CVD death, and cancer death.


There were 111 incident CVD events, 137 incident cancers, 85 deaths including 69 non-CVD deaths, and 45 cancer deaths in up to 23 047 person-years of follow-up. A 1-SD increment in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) HU was inversely associated with incident CVD in the age- and sex-adjusted model (hazard ratio [HR] 0.78, P = .02) but not after multivariable adjustment (HR 0.83, P = .11). VAT HU was directly associated with all-cause mortality (multivariable HR 1.40, P = .003), which maintained significance after additional adjustment for body mass index (HR 1.53, P < .001) and VAT volume (HR 1.99, P < .001). Non-CVD death remained significant in all 3 models, including after adjustment for VAT volume (HR 1.97, P < .001). VAT HU was also associated with cancer mortality (HR 1.93, P = .002). Similar results were obtained for sc adipose tissue HU.


Fat quality, as estimated by CT attenuation, is associated with all-cause mortality, non-CVD death, and cancer death. These associations highlight how indirect indices of fat quality can potentially add to a better understanding of obesity-related complications.

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