Ethnic-specific differences in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Nov;18(11):2177-83. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.94. Epub 2010 May 6.


South Asians have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than Europeans. Studies have identified distinct subcompartments of subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) that provide insight into the relationship between abdominal obesity and metabolic risk factors in different ethnic groups. Our objective was to determine the relationship between SAT compartments and fat-free mass (FFM) between South Asian and European cohorts, and between men and women. Healthy Europeans and South Asians (n = 408) were assessed for FFM via dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and SAT areas by computed tomography (CT). SAT was subdivided into superficial subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SSAT) and deep subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (DSAT). Linear regression analyses were performed using DSAT and SSAT as separate dependent variables and FFM and ethnicity as primary independent variables adjusting for age, gender, income, education, and smoking status. Results showed that South Asian men had significantly higher amounts of DSAT (median 187.65 cm(2) vs. 145.15 cm(2), P < 0.001), SSAT (median 92.0 cm(2) vs. 76.1 cm(2), P = 0.046), and body fat mass (BFM) (25.1 kg vs. 22.6 kg, P = 0.049) than European men. In a fully adjusted model, South Asians showed significantly greater DSAT at any FFM than Europeans. Women had more SSAT at any given FFM than men and less DSAT at any given FFM than men, irrespective of ethnic background. In conclusion, South Asians had more DSAT than Europeans and men had relatively more DSAT than women. These data suggest that specific fat depots are influenced by ethnicity and gender; therefore, could provide insight into the relationship between ethnicity, gender and subsequent risk for CVD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Asians*
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Fluid Compartments*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Abdominal / ethnology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal* / diagnostic imaging
  • Whites*