Sex Differences in Body Composition

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017:1043:9-27. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-70178-3_2.


Body composition differs between men and women. Men have more lean mass, and women have more fat mass than men. Men are more likely to accumulate adipose tissue around the trunk and abdomen, whereas women usually accumulate adipose tissue around the hips and thighs. Less is known about sex differences in ectopic fat depots. Advances in imaging allow the noninvasive assessment of abdominal and femorogluteal fat compartments, intramyocellular lipids, intrahepatic lipids, pericardial adipose tissue, and neck adipose tissue including brown adipose tissue and tongue adipose tissue. In this review, sex differences of regional adipose tissue, muscle mass, ectopic lipids, and brown adipose tissue and their effects on cardiometabolic risk will be discussed. In addition, novel imaging techniques to quantify these body composition compartments noninvasively will be described.

Keywords: Body composition; Brown adipose tissue; Intrahepatic lipids; Intramyocellular lipids; Muscle mass; Neck adipose tissue; Pericardial adipose tissue; Sex differences; Subcutaneous adipose tissue; Tongue adipose tissue; Visceral adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adiposity*
  • Body Composition*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors