Intra- and interindividual variability of fatty acid unsaturation in six different human adipose tissue compartments assessed by 1 H-MRS in vivo at 3 T

NMR Biomed. 2017 Sep;30(9). doi: 10.1002/nbm.3744. Epub 2017 May 25.


It is generally accepted that the amount and distribution of adipose tissue (AT) in the human body play an important role in the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases. In addition, metabolic effects of released saturated fatty acids (FAs) in blood are known to be more critical than those of unsaturated FAs. However, little is known about the variability in unsaturation of FAs in various AT compartments. The aim of this prospective study was the assessment of mono- and polyunsaturated FAs in various AT compartments by localized 1 H-MRS in order to obtain insight into the intra- and interindividual variability. Associations of FA unsaturation with intrahepatic lipids (IHLs), insulin sensitivity and related AT volumes were analyzed. Fifty healthy Caucasians (36 male, 14 female) participated in this study. Spectroscopic examinations were performed in subcutaneous adipose tissue in the neck (SCATneck ), abdominal deep subcutaneous adipose tissue (DSCAT), abdominal superficial subcutaneous adipose tissue (SSCAT), visceral adipose tissue (VAT), tibial bone marrow (BM) and subcutaneous adipose tissue of the lower leg (SCATcalf ) at 3 T. Unsaturated index (UI) was calculated by the ratio of olefinic and methyl resonances, polyunsaturated index (PUI) by the ratio of diallylic and methyl resonances. Volumes of AT compartments (by T1 -weighted MRI) and IHL (single-voxel STEAM) were assessed at 1.5 T, insulin sensitivity by an oral glucose tolerance test. UI was highest for SCATcalf (0.622) and lowest for BM (0.527). Highest PUI was observed for SSCAT (0.108), lowest for BM (0.093). Significant intraindividual differences between UIs-but not PUIs-are present for most compartments. There is a non-significant trend for higher UI in males but otherwise no correlation to anthropometric data (age, BMI). A significant negative correlation between UI and AT volume was observed for VAT but for none of the other compartments. Neither UIs nor PUIs show a relation with IHL; insulin sensitivity is significantly correlated to UI in BM (p < 0.01). Unsaturation indices in several distinct AT compartments are location dependent. Our cohort showed only moderate gender-related differences, with a trend towards less unsaturated FAs (mainly PUI) in females. In BM, insulin resistant subjects are characterized by a higher UI compared with the insulin sensitive ones. Further studies in larger cohorts are necessary to gain further insight into unsaturation of AT.

Keywords: 1H-MRS; adipose tissue; monounsaturated fatty acids; polyunsaturated fatty acids.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated