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.