Visceral fat and arterial stiffness in youth with healthy weight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes

Pediatr Obes. 2022 Apr;17(4):e12865. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12865. Epub 2021 Oct 19.


Background and objectives: Visceral fat is associated with increased cardiovascular risk in adults, but studies in youth are limited. We assessed associations between visceral fat and arterial stiffness in youth with healthy weight, obesity and type 2 diabetes and determined whether relationships were independent of clinical estimates of body fatness.

Methods: This cross-sectional sample included youth ages 10-23 years (67% female, 56% non-black) with healthy weight (body mass index [BMI] = 5th-85th percentile, n = 236), obesity (BMI ≥ 95th percentile, n = 224) and type 2 diabetes (BMI ≥ 95th percentile, n = 145). Visceral fat was assessed via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) was assessed via applanation tonometry. Obesity and type 2 diabetes groups were combined for final analyses. Analyses accounted for age, sex, ancestry and mean arterial pressure.

Results: Visceral fat and PWV were greater in youth with obesity versus healthy weight (p < 0.001). In youth with obesity, but not healthy weight, visceral fat was positively associated with PWV (p < 0.001) and was predictive of PWV beyond BMI and waist circumference.

Conclusions: Visceral fat likely contributes to subclinical cardiovascular complications in youth. Since cardiovascular health tracks from adolescence to adulthood, longitudinal studies in youth with obesity are required to define the role of visceral fat in lifelong cardiovascular disease risk.

Keywords: arterial stiffness; obesity; type 2 diabetes; visceral fat; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Vascular Stiffness*
  • Young Adult