Normalized Indices Derived from Visceral Adipose Mass Assessed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Their Correlation with Markers for Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes

Nutrients. 2020 Jul 11;12(7):2064. doi: 10.3390/nu12072064.


Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance (IR), prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. However, VAT volume alone might not be the best marker for insulin resistance and prediabetes or diabetes, as a given VAT volume may impact differently on these metabolic traits based on body height, gender, age and ethnicity. In a cohort of 1295 subjects from the Tübingen Diabetes Family Study (TDFS) and in 9978 subjects from the UK Biobank (UKBB) undergoing magnetic resonance imaging for quantification of VAT volume, total adipose tissue (TAT) in the TDFS, total abdominal adipose tissue (TAAT) in the UKBB, and total lean tissue (TLT), VAT volume and several VAT-indices were investigated for their relationships with insulin resistance and glycemic traits. VAT-related indices were calculated by correcting for body height (VAT/m:VAT/body height; VAT/m2:VAT/(body height)2, and VAT/m3:VAT/(body height)3), TAT (%VAT), TLT (VAT/TLT) and weight (VAT/WEI), with closest equivalents used within the UKBB dataset. Prognostic values of VAT and VAT-related indices for insulin sensitivity, HbA1c levels and prediabetes/diabetes were analyzed for males and females. Males had higher VAT volume and VAT-related indices than females in both cohorts (p < 0.0001) and VAT volume has shown to be a stronger determinant for insulin sensitivity than anthropometric variables. Among the parameters uncorrected VAT and derived indices, VAT/m3 most strongly correlated negatively with insulin sensitivity and positively with HbA1c levels and prediabetes/diabetes in the TDFS (R2 = 0.375/0.305 for females/males for insulin sensitivity, 0.178/0.148 for HbA1c levels vs., e.g., 0..355/0.293 and 0.144/0.133 for VAT, respectively) and positively with HbA1c (R2 = 0.046/0.042) in the UKBB for females and males. Furthermore, VAT/m3 was found to be a significantly better determinant of insulin resistance or prediabetes than uncorrected VAT volume (p < 0.001/0.019 for females/males regarding insulin sensitivity, p < 0.001/< 0.001 for females/males regarding HbA1c).Evaluation of several indices derived from VAT volume identified VAT/m3 to correlate most strongly with insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Thus, VAT/m3 appears to provide better indications of metabolic characteristics (insulin sensitivity and pre-diabetes/diabetes) than VAT volume alone.

Keywords: insulin resistance; magnetic resonance imaging; normative values; prediabetes; visceral adipose tissue; visceral fat index.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Constitution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Prediabetic State / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prediabetic State / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human