Visceral fat and beta cell function in non-diabetic humans

Diabetologia. 2005 Oct;48(10):2090-6. doi: 10.1007/s00125-005-1891-3. Epub 2005 Aug 6.


Aims/hypothesis: Preferential visceral adipose tissue (VAT) accumulation has been clearly associated with insulin resistance. In contrast, the impact of visceral obesity on beta cell function is controversial.

Methods: In 62 non-diabetic women and men (age 24-69 years, BMI 21-39 kg/m2), we measured VAT and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) fat mass by magnetic resonance imaging. We also measured insulin secretion and beta cell function by C-peptide deconvolution and physiological modelling of data from a frequently sampled, 75-g, 3-h OGTT, respectively.

Results: VAT (range 0.1-3.1 kg) was strongly related to sex, age and BMI; SAT was related to sex and BMI. Controlling for sex, age, BMI and SAT by multivariate analysis, excess VAT was associated with a clinical phenotype comprising higher plasma glucose levels, BP, heart rate and serum transaminases. The corresponding metabolic phenotype consisted of insulin resistance (partial r=-0.38) and hyperinsulinaemia (partial r=0.29). The latter, however, was appropriate for the degree of insulin resistance regardless of obesity and abdominal fat distribution. Moreover, none of the model-derived parameters describing beta cell function (glucose sensitivity, rate sensitivity and potentiation) was independently associated with excess VAT.

Conclusions/interpretation: In non-diabetic Caucasian adults of either sex, preferential visceral fat deposition in itself is part of an insulin-resistant phenotype. The insulin secretory response to a physiological challenge is increased to fully compensate for the insulin resistance, but the dynamics of beta cell function (glucose sensitivity, rate sensitivity and potentiation) are largely preserved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Area Under Curve
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • C-Peptide / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Glucose Intolerance
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Pancreatic Function Tests
  • Phenotype


  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Glucose