Body fat distribution and insulin resistance

Nutrients. 2013 Jun 5;5(6):2019-27. doi: 10.3390/nu5062019.


The burden of obesity has increased globally over the last few decades and its association with insulin resistance and related cardio-metabolic problems have adversely affected our ability to reduce population morbidity and mortality. Traditionally, adipose tissue in the visceral fat depot has been considered a major culprit in the development of insulin resistance. However, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the role of subcutaneous truncal/abdominal adipose tissue in the development of insulin resistance. There are significant differences in the functional characteristics of subcutaneous abdominal/truncal vs. intraabdominal vs. gluteo-femoral fat depots. More recently, mounting evidence has been supporting the role of adipose tissue function in the development of metabolic complications independent of adipose tissue volume or distribution. Decreased capacity for adipocyte differentiation and angiogenesis along with adipocyte hypertrophy can trigger a vicious cycle of inflammation leading to subcutaneous adipose tissue dysfunction and ectopic fat deposition. Therapeutic lifestyle change continues to be the most important intervention in clinical practice to improve adipose tissue function and avoid development of insulin resistance and related cardio-metabolic complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / physiopathology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / physiopathology