Metabolic implications of pancreatic fat accumulation

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2022 Jan;18(1):43-54. doi: 10.1038/s41574-021-00573-3. Epub 2021 Oct 20.


Fat accumulation outside subcutaneous adipose tissue often has unfavourable effects on systemic metabolism. In addition to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which has received considerable attention, pancreatic fat has become an important area of research throughout the past 10 years. While a number of diagnostic approaches are available to quantify pancreatic fat, multi-echo Dixon MRI is currently the most developed method. Initial studies have shown associations between pancreatic fat and the metabolic syndrome, impaired glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Pancreatic fat is linked to reduced insulin secretion, at least under specific circumstances such as prediabetes, low BMI and increased genetic risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. This Review summarizes the possible causes and metabolic consequences of pancreatic fat accumulation. In addition, potential therapeutic approaches for addressing pancreatic fat accumulation are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism
  • Pancreas / diagnostic imaging
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Prediabetic State* / metabolism