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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019 Jan;73(1):62-71. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0150-x. Epub 2018 Apr 18.

Association between fat mass, adipose tissue, fat fraction per adipose tissue, and metabolic risks: a cross-sectional study in normal, overweight, and obese adults.

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Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany.
Department of Geriatric Medicine, Marien Hospital Herne, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (Section on Metabolic Genetics), and the Department of Public Health, The Faculty of Health and Medical Science, University Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany.



We investigated whether fat mass (FM) and total adipose tissue (TAT) can be used interchangeably and FM per TAT adds to metabolic risk assessment.


Cross-sectional data were assessed in 377 adults (aged 18-60 years; 51.2% women). FM was measured by either 4-compartment (4C) model or quantitative magnetic resonance (QMR); total-, subcutaneous- and visceral adipose tissue (TAT, SAT, VAT), and liver fat by whole-body MRI; leptin, insulin, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and triglycerides; resting energy expenditure and respiratory quotient by indirect calorimetry were determined. Correlations and stepwise multivariate regression analyses were performed.


FM4C and FMQMR were associated with TAT (r4C = 0.96, rQMR = 0.99) with a mean FM per TAT of 0.85 and 1.01, respectively. Regardless of adiposity, there was a considerable inter-individual variance of FM/TAT-ratio (FM4C/TAT-ratio: 0.77-0.94; FMQMR/TAT-ratio: 0.89-1.10). Both, FM4C and TAT were associated with metabolic risks. Further, FM4C/TAT-ratio was positively related to leptin but inversely with CRP. There was no association between FM4C/TAT-ratio and VAT/SAT or liver fat. FM4C/TAT-ratio added to the variance of leptin and CRP.


Independent of FM or TAT, FM4C/TAT-ratio adds to metabolic risk assessment. Therefore, the interchangeable use of FM and TAT to assess metabolic risks is questionable as both parameters may complement each other.


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