Epicardial Adipose Tissue and Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Ultra-Marathon Runners: A Pilot Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 18;18(6):3136. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063136.


Epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) volume is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Data regarding the influence of extremely intensive training on CVD are scarce. We compared EAT volume among ultra-marathon runners and in the sedentary control group, and assessed the correlations between EAT and risk factors of coronary artery disease (CAD). EAT volume around three main coronary vessels and right ventricle (RV) was measured in 30 healthy amateur ultrarunners and 9 sex- and age-matched sedentary controls using cardiac magnetic resonance. In addition, body composition, lipid profile, interleukin-6 (IL-6) plasma concentration, and intima-media thickness (IMT) were measured as well. The EAT volume was lower in all measured locations in the ultrarunners' group compared to control group (p < 0.001 for all). Ultrarunners had lower BMI and fat percentage (FAT%) and more favorable lipid profile compared to the control group (p < 0.05 for all). Ultrarunners had lower rate of pathologically high levels of plasma IL-6 (>1 pg/mL) compared to the control group (17% vs. 56%, p < 0.05). IMT was similar in both groups. In the ultrarunners' group, there was a positive correlation between EAT surrounding left anterior descending artery, circumflex artery, and RV and FAT%, and between EAT around circumflex artery and LDL and non-HDL cholesterol (p < 0.05 for all). In summary, extremely intensive training may decrease the risk of cardiovascular events in adult population of amateur athletes by reducing the amount and pro-inflammatory activity of EAT. However, more research is needed to draw firm conclusions regarding the anti- and pro-inflammatory effects of intensive training.

Keywords: cardiac magnetic resonance; cardiovascular disease; epicardial adipose tissue; inflammation; ultrarunners.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / epidemiology
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors
  • Humans
  • Marathon Running
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Factors