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Obes Res. 1995 Sep;3 Suppl 2:187S-194S.

Pathophysiology and pathogenesis of visceral fat obesity.

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Second Department of Internal Medicine, Osaka University Medical School, Japan.


Based on the analysis of fat distribution by computed tomography (CT) scans, the classification scheme for obesity should include visceral fat obesity in which fat accumulation is predominant in the intra-abdominal cavity. Obese subjects with visceral fat accumulation more frequently demonstrate impairment of glucose and lipid metabolism than those with subcutaneous fat accumulation. We have shown that visceral fat obesity is present in almost 90% of obese patients with ischemic heart disease. Even in non-obese subjects, visceral fat accumulation is correlated with glucose intolerance, hyperlipidemia and hypertension. Forty percent of non-obese subjects with coronary artery disease (CAD) had increased visceral fat. In non-obese subjects, visceral fat area assessed by abdominal CT at the level of the umbilicus correlates with metabolic risk factors, whereas in obese subjects the visceral fat area to subcutaneous fat area ratio provides a more significant correlation. From clinical and basic investigations, aging, sex hormones, excess intake of sucrose and lack of physical exercise have been suggested to be determinants for visceral fat accumulation. Since intra-abdominal fat (mesenteric and omentum fat) has been shown to have high activities of both lipogenesis and lipolysis, its accumulation can induce high levels of free fatty acids, a product of lipolysis, in portal circulation which go into the liver. Excess free fatty acids may cause the enhancement of lipid synthesis and gluconeogenesis as well as insulin resistance, resulting in hyperlipidemia, glucose intolerance and hypertension and finally atherosclerosis. Thus we propose a disease entity, visceral fat syndrome, which may increase susceptibility to atherosclerosis due to multiple risk factors induced by visceral fat accumulation.

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