Impact of abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue on cardiometabolic risk factors: the Jackson Heart Study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Dec;95(12):5419-26. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-1378. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Objective: Obesity is a major driver of cardiometabolic risk. Abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and sc adipose tissue (SAT) may confer differential metabolic risk profiles. We investigated the relations of VAT and SAT with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Jackson Heart Study cohort.

Methods: Participants from the Jackson Heart Study (n=2477; 64% women; mean age, 58 yr) underwent multidetector computed tomography, and the volumetric amounts of VAT and SAT were assessed between 2007 and 2009. Cardiometabolic risk factors were examined by sex in relation to VAT and SAT.

Results: Men had a higher mean volume of VAT (873 vs. 793 cm3) and a lower mean volume of SAT (1730 vs. 2659 cm3) than women (P=0.0001). Per 1-sd increment in either VAT or SAT, we observed elevated levels of fasting plasma glucose and triglyceride, lower levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, and increased odds ratios for hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The effect size of VAT in women was larger than that of SAT [fasting plasma glucose, 5.51±1.0 vs. 3.36±0.9; triglyceride, 0.17±0.01 vs. 0.05±0.01; high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, -5.36±0.4 vs. -2.85±0.4; and odds ratio for hypertension, 1.62 (1.4-1.9) vs. 1.40 (1.2-1.6); diabetes, 1.82 (1.6-2.1) vs. 1.58 (1.4-1.8); and metabolic syndrome, 3.34 (2.8-4.0) vs. 2.06 (1.8-2.4), respectively; P<0.0001 for difference between VAT and SAT]. Similar patterns were also observed in men. Furthermore, VAT remained associated with most risk factors even after accounting for body mass index (P ranging from 0.006-0.0001). The relationship of VAT to most risk factors was significantly different between women and men.

Conclusions: Abdominal VAT and SAT are both associated with adverse cardiometabolic risk factors, but VAT remains more strongly associated with these risk factors. The results from this study suggest that relations with cardiometabolic risk factors are consistent with a pathogenic role of abdominal adiposity in participants of African ancestry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / anatomy & histology*
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Subcutaneous Fat / anatomy & histology
  • Waist Circumference


  • Cholesterol, HDL