Body composition assessment for the definition of cardiometabolic risk

J Endocrinol Invest. 2013 Jul-Aug;36(7):537-43. doi: 10.3275/8943. Epub 2013 Apr 23.


Obesity is associated with a major prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and high risk of cardiovascular events and contributes to the increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality worldwide. Beyond the fat mass per se, the pattern of fat distribution has a profound influence on cardiometabolic risk. The increase in abdominal adipose tissue confers an independent risk, while the amount of gluteofemoral body fat is thought to be protective. Changes in the capacity of different depots to store and release fatty acids and to produce adipocytokines are important determinants of fat distribution and its metabolic consequences. Because of the complexity of the assessment of body fat with imaging techniques, great attention has been paid to other measures of adiposity, such as waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), which provide information on body fat distribution, although body mass index (BMI) is the established clinical measure to estimate the cardiovascular risk disease associated with excessive body weight. Abdominal obesity is a main predictive factor of the metabolic syndrome, so it is certain that it represents a better marker of cardiovascular risk than BMI. Visceral adiposity index (VAI) has recently proven to be a marker of visceral adipose distribution and function, associated with insulin sensitivity in patients at metabolic risk; however, the evidence needs to be further confirmed. In summary, BMI, WC, WHR, WHtR, and VAI are all useful tools for assessing adiposity/ obesity in clinical practice, and should be evaluated along with other cardiometabolic risk factors to define cardiovascular risk stratification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging
  • Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • ROC Curve
  • Radiography
  • Risk
  • Waist Circumference*
  • Waist-Hip Ratio