Visceral fat does not contribute to metabolic disease in lipodystrophy

Obes Sci Pract. 2019 Jan 24;5(1):75-82. doi: 10.1002/osp4.319. eCollection 2019 Feb.


Objectives: Lipodystrophies are characterized by regional or generalized loss of adipose tissue and severe metabolic complications. The role of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in the development of metabolic derangements in lipodystrophy is unknown. The study aim was to investigate VAT contribution to metabolic disease in lipodystrophy versus healthy controls.

Methods: Analysis of correlations between VAT volume and biomarkers of metabolic disease in 93 patients and 93 age/sex-matched healthy controls.

Results: Patients with generalized lipodystrophy (n = 43) had lower VAT compared with matched controls, while those with partial lipodystrophy (n = 50) had higher VAT versus controls. Both groups with lipodystrophy had lower leg fat mass versus controls (p < 0.05 for all; unpaired t-test). In both generalized and partial lipodystrophy, there was no correlation between VAT and glucose, triglycerides or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p > 0.05 for all; Spearman correlation). In controls matched to patients with generalized or partial lipodystrophy, VAT correlated with glucose (R = 0.42 and 0.36), triglycerides (R = 0.36 and 0.60) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (R = -0.34 and -0.64) (p < 0.05 for all; Spearman correlation).

Conclusions: In contrast to healthy controls, metabolic derangements in lipodystrophy did not correlate with VAT volume. These data suggest that, in lipodystrophy, impaired peripheral subcutaneous fat deposition may exert a larger effect than VAT accumulation on the development of metabolic complications. Interventions aimed at increasing functional subcutaneous adipose tissue may provide metabolic benefit.

Keywords: Lipodystrophy; subcutaneous adipose tissue; visceral adipose tissue.