In order to determine whether differences in body fat distribution result in specific abnormalities of free fatty acid (FFA) metabolism, palmitate turnover, a measure of systemic adipose tissue lipolysis, was measured in 10 women with upper body obesity, 9 women with lower body obesity, and 8 nonobese women under overnight postabsorptive (basal), epinephrine stimulated and insulin suppressed conditions.
Results: Upper body obese women had greater (P less than 0.005) basal palmitate turnover than lower body obese or nonobese women (2.8 +/- 0.2 vs. 2.1 +/- 0.2 vs. 1.8 +/- 0.2 mumol.kg lean body mass (LBM)-1.min-1, respectively), but a reduced (P less than 0.05) net lipolytic response to epinephrine (59 +/- 7 vs. 79 +/- 5 vs. 81 +/- 7 mumol palmitate/kg LBM, respectively). Both types of obesity were associated with impaired suppression of FFA turnover in response to euglycemic hyperinsulinemia compared to nonobese women (P less than 0.005). These specific differences in FFA metabolism may reflect adipocyte heterogeneity, which may in turn affect the metabolic aberrations associated with different types of obesity. These findings emphasize the need to characterize obese subjects before studies.