Abdominal fat radiodensity, quantity and cardiometabolic risk: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Feb;26(2):114-22. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2015.12.002. Epub 2015 Dec 28.


Background and aims: Fat radiodensity, as measured by fat attenuation on computed tomography (CT), has emerged as a potential biomarker of "fat quality." We sought to characterize the relationship between fat radiodensity and quantity in subcutaneous, visceral, and intermuscular fat depots, and its role in inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome (MetS).

Methods and results: We studied 1511 individuals from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis who underwent CT for measurement of regional fat distribution and radiodensity, along with biomarker assessments and adjudication of incident metabolic syndrome (MetS). Linear, logistic and Cox regression analyses were used to measure association between fat radiodensity and (1) fat quantity, (2) biomarkers of cardiometabolic dysfunction, and (3) both prevalent and incident MetS. In each fat depot, radiodensity was strongly and inversely associated with quantity (e.g., visceral fat radiodensity vs. quantity: ρ = -0.82, P < 0.01). After adjustment for age, sex and race, lower visceral fat radiodensity was associated with greater C-reactive protein, leptin and insulin, but lower adiponectin (P < 0.01 for all). After full adjustment for cardiovascular disease risk factors, visceral (but not subcutaneous or intermuscular) fat radiodensity was associated with prevalent MetS (OR = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.93-0.99, P = 0.01). Moreover, lower visceral fat radiodensity was associated with incident MetS after the same adjustment (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.93-0.98, P < 0.01). However, this association became non-significant after further adjustment for visceral fat quantity.

Conclusion: Fat radiodensity is strongly correlated with fat quantity and relevant inflammatory biomarkers. Fat radiodensity (especially for visceral fat) may be a complementary, easily assessed marker of cardiometabolic risk.

Keywords: Adiponectin; Adiposity; C-reactive protein; Insulin; Metabolic syndrome; Obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adiposity* / ethnology
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis* / ethnology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insulin / blood
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging
  • Leptin / blood
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • ADIPOQ protein, human
  • Adiponectin
  • Biomarkers
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • C-Reactive Protein