Obesity is not uniformly associated with the development of metabolic sequelae. Specific patterns of body fat distribution, in particular fatty liver, may preferentially predispose at-risk individuals to disease. In this study, we characterize the metabolic correlates of fat in the liver in a large community-based sample with and without respect to visceral fat. Fatty liver was measured by way of multidetector computed tomography of the abdomen in 2,589 individuals from the community-based Framingham Heart Study. Logistic and linear regression were used to determine the associations of fatty liver with cardio-metabolic risk factors adjusted for covariates with and without adjustment for other fat depots (body mass index, waist circumference, and visceral adipose tissue). The prevalence of fatty liver was 17%. Compared with participants without fatty liver, individuals with fatty liver had a higher adjusted odds ratio (OR) of diabetes (OR 2.98, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.12-4.21), metabolic syndrome (OR 5.22, 95% CI 4.15-6.57), hypertension (OR 2.73, 95% CI 2.16-3.44), impaired fasting glucose (OR 2.95, 95% CI 2.32-3.75), insulin resistance (OR 6.16, 95% CI 4.90-7.76); higher triglycerides, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP); and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and adiponectin levels (P < 0.001 for all). After adjustment for other fat depots, fatty liver remained associated with diabetes, hypertension, impaired fasting glucose, metabolic syndrome, HDL, triglycerides, and adiponectin levels (all P < 0.001), whereas associations with SBP and DBP were attenuated (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: Fatty liver is a prevalent condition and is characterized by dysglycemia and dyslipidemia independent of visceral adipose tissue and other obesity measures. This work begins to dissect the specific links between fat depots and metabolic disease.