Relationship between fat cell size and number and fatty acid composition in adipose tissue from different fat depots in overweight/obese humans

Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Jun;30(6):899-905. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803219.


Objective: To evaluate the body fat distribution and fat cell size and number in an overweight/obese population from both genders, and to determine the possible relationship between fat cell data from three different adipose tissue localizations (subcutaneous (SA), perivisceral and omental) and adipose tissue composition and dietary fatty acid.

Design: The sample consisted of 84 overweight/obese patients (29 men and 55 women) who have undergone abdominal surgery. The adipocyte size and total fat cell number was studied. Fat cell data were related with anthropometric, adipose tissue and subject's habitual diet fatty acid composition.

Measurements: Fat cell size was measured according to a Sjöström method from the three adipose depots. Total fat cell number was also calculated. The fatty acid composition of adipose tissue was examined by gas chromatography. The subjects diet was studied by a 7 days dietary record.

Results: Our data showed a negative relationship between the adipocyte size and the n-6 and n-3 fatty acids content of the SA adipose tissue (r=-0.286, P=0,040; r=-0.300, P=0.030) respectively, and the n-6 in the omental depots (r=-0.407, P=0.049) in the total population. Positive associations with the total of saturated (r=0.357, P=0.045) and negative (r=-0.544, P=0.001) with the n-9 fatty acids were observed when the relationship between the adipocyte number and the fatty acid composition of the different anatomical fat regions was studied. Dietary fatty acids composition positively correlated with fat cell size for the myristic acid (14:0) in men in the visceral depot (r=0.822, P=0.023), and for the saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in women in the omental depot (r=0.486, P=0.035).

Conclusion: In the present study, for the first time in humans we found that n-3 and n-6 fatty acids are related to a reduced adipocyte size according to the depot localization. In contrast, adipose tissue and dietary SFAs significantly correlated with an increase in fat cell size and number. No significant associations were found between n-9 acids content and adipocyte size. However, n-9 adipose tissue fatty acids content was inversely associated with fat cell number showing that this type of fatty acid could limit hyperplasia in obese populations. The differences observed in the three different regions, perivisceral, omental and SA fat, indicate that this population adipose tissue have depot-specific differences.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / pathology*
  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Diet
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / chemistry
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Omentum / chemistry
  • Omentum / pathology
  • Overweight
  • Subcutaneous Fat / chemistry
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6