Vertebral bone marrow fat is positively associated with visceral fat and inversely associated with IGF-1 in obese women

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jan;19(1):49-53. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.106. Epub 2010 May 13.


Recent studies have demonstrated an important physiologic link between bone and fat. Bone and fat cells arise from the same mesenchymal precursor cell within bone marrow, capable of differentiation into adipocytes or osteoblasts. Increased BMI appears to protect against osteoporosis. However, recent studies have suggested detrimental effects of visceral fat on bone health. Increased visceral fat may also be associated with decreased growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels which are important for maintenance of bone homeostasis. The purpose of our study was to assess the relationship between vertebral bone marrow fat and trabecular bone mineral density (BMD), abdominal fat depots, GH and IGF-1 in premenopausal women with obesity. We studied 47 premenopausal women of various BMI (range: 18-41 kg/m², mean 30 ± 7 kg/m²) who underwent vertebral bone marrow fat measurement with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), body composition, and trabecular BMD measurement with computed tomography (CT), and GH and IGF-1 levels. Women with high visceral fat had higher bone marrow fat than women with low visceral fat. There was a positive correlation between bone marrow fat and visceral fat, independent of BMD. There was an inverse association between vertebral bone marrow fat and trabecular BMD. Vertebral bone marrow fat was also inversely associated with IGF-1, independent of visceral fat. Our study showed that vertebral bone marrow fat is positively associated with visceral fat and inversely associated with IGF-1 and BMD. This suggests that the detrimental effect of visceral fat on bone health may be mediated in part by IGF-1 as an important regulator of the fat and bone lineage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism*
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Young Adult


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I