Subdivisions of Subcutaneous Abdominal Adipose Tissue and Insulin Resistance

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2000 May;278(5):E941-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.2000.278.5.E941.


Whereas truncal (central) adiposity is strongly associated with the insulin resistant metabolic syndrome, it is uncertain whether this is accounted for principally by visceral adiposity (VAT). Several recent studies find as strong or stronger association between subcutaneous abdominal adiposity (SAT) and insulin resistance. To reexamine the issue of truncal adipose tissue depots, we performed cross-sectional abdominal computed tomography, and we undertook the novel approach of partitioning SAT into the plane superficial to the fascia within subcutaneous adipose tissue (superficial SAT) and that below this fascia (deep SAT), as well as measurement of VAT. Among 47 lean and obese glucose-tolerant men and women, insulin-stimulated glucose utilization, measured by euglycemic clamp, was strongly correlated with both VAT and deep SAT (r = -0.61 and -0.64, respectively; both P < 0.001), but not with superficial SAT (r = -0.29, not significant). Also, VAT and deep SAT followed a highly congruent pattern of associations with glucose and insulin area under the curve (75-g oral glucose tolerance test), mean arterial blood pressure, apoprotein-B, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride. Superficial SAT had markedly weaker association with all these parameters and instead followed the pattern observed for thigh subcutaneous adiposity. We conclude that there are two functionally distinct compartments of adipose tissue within abdominal subcutaneous fat and that the deep SAT has a strong relation to insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen*
  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Female
  • Glucose Clamp Technique
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Triglycerides