Adiponectin Levels Differentiate Metabolically Healthy vs Unhealthy Among Obese and Nonobese White Individuals

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Nov;100(11):4172-80. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2765. Epub 2015 Sep 24.


Context: Adiponectin levels (ADPN) are lower in individuals with central obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Conversely, studies have shown paradoxical hyperadiponectinemia (HA) in metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individuals of non-European descent. Moreover, individuals with higher sc to visceral adipose tissue (ie, higher peripheral adiposity) distribution have higher ADPNs. However, it is not known whether metabolically healthy individuals have predominantly peripheral adiposity along with higher ADPNs.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the association of ADPN and adiposity distribution with metabolic health in white individuals.

Design and setting: This was a cross-sectional study of members of "Take Off Pounds Sensibly" weight loss club and their relatives.

Participants: We recruited 2486 (72% women, 61% obese) individuals. They were defined as metabolically healthy by absence of hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia; and they were further classified into metabolically healthy nonobese (MHNO), metabolically unhealthy nonobese (MUNO), metabolically healthy obese (MHO), and metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO). Waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs) were used as markers of adiposity distribution. Insulin resistance was measured using homeostasis model assessment.

Results: Among the four groups, MHNO had the lowest WHRs (higher peripheral adiposity) and highest ADPN, and MUO had highest WHRs (higher central adiposity) and lowest ADPN (P < .001). Among both nonobese and obese, metabolically healthy individuals had higher ADPN than metabolically unhealthy individuals (P < .05) after adjustment for age, sex, and body mass index. MHNO also had lower WHRs compared with MUNO (P < .01). Although WHRs were lower among MHO compared with MUO, the difference was not significant. In addition, nonobese and obese individuals with HA (defined using sex-specific cutoffs) had lower homeostasis model assessment and dyslipidemia compared with individuals without HA.

Conclusions: Higher ADPN and lower WHRs (higher peripheral adiposity) are associated with better metabolic health in both nonobese and obese white individuals. These results suggest that ADPN and peripheral adiposity play a key role in determining the metabolic health independent of body mass index.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood*
  • Adiposity
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Dyslipidemias / blood
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / blood*
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Waist-Hip Ratio
  • Weight Loss


  • Adiponectin
  • Cytokines
  • Lipids