Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fat Distribution and Health

It is well known that obesity and overweight have implications for health, however, specific locations for fat deposition has significance as well. When studying adolescent girls, Mirhosseini et al., (2012) found fat distribution around the abdomen contributes to cardiovascular risk (CVR), high blood pressure, a rise in c-reactive protein (a serum measure of inflammation in the body and associated with obesity), and high fasting blood sugar (which can lead to diabetes). Lessard et al., (2011) found overall fat distribution and an increase in body mass index (BMI) impacts pulmonary functioning and furthermore provokes an increase in some hormone levels that may play a role in cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Higher BMI is associated with high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and mortality (Evans, McIntyre, Fluck, McIntyre, & Taal, 2012).

Liu et al., (2011) found body fat distribution is an important consideration in addition to total body fat or BMI when discussing obesity. Liu et al. additionally discovered android fat patterns (when fat is deposited around the trunk and the upper body) and abdominal fat deposits are predictive of CVR, hypertension, and high fasting blood sugar. Overall fat deposition was not, however, as predictive of these diseases (Liu et al., 2011). In chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, central fat distribution was more predictive of advancing disease than was BMI (Evans et al., 2012). The location of fat deposition is predictive of metabolic disease as well (Koster et al., 2010).

Ethnic Differences in Fat Distribution
Ethnic differences exist in fat distribution. For example, Blacks, and Asians demonstrated a tendency toward fat depositions in the central and upper body as compared to Whites (Liu et al., 2010). Identifying these differences is crucial in identifying risk of cardiovascular disease (Liu et al., 2010). Liu et al. (2012) studied four distinct Asian ethnicities and found consistent differences in fat deposition between each group. In a study on adolescent girls, Asians had more fat deposited around the trunk area rather than peripherally, compared to the White girls (Novotny, Daida, Grove, Le Marchand, & Vijayadeva, 2006). Rush, Freitas, and Plank (2009) found wide, but consistent differences in fat distribution between four distinct ethnic groups of men and women.

Differences in fat deposition were found when comparing Japanese, African Americans, and Caucasians (Tanaka, Horimai, & Katsukawa, 2003). Herd, Gower, Dashti, and Goran (2001) suggested ethnic differences in fat distribution may be partly mediated by blood lipids (fats in the blood). Using typical blood tests predictive of cardiovascular disease, ethnic differences in blood lipids were established in childhood and continued throughout adulthood (Herd, Gower, Dashti, & Goran, 2001).

Identifying these differences may be essential in making recommendations to diverse populations as well as effectively promoting change toward reducing disease in various populations. If Herd, Gower, Dahti, and Goran's (2011) findings are consistent in future research, promoting culturally appropriate education in various populations may help institute changes in lifestyle and dietary habits early in childhood. These changes may have far reaching implications for lifelong health in these populations.


Mirhosseini, N. Z., Shahar, S., Ghayour-Mobarhan, M., Parizadeh, M. R., Yusoff, N. A., & Shakeri, M. T. (2012). Body fat distribution and its association with cardiovascular risk factors in adolescent Iranian girls. Iranian Journal of Pediatrics, 22(2), 197-204.

Lessard, A., Alméras, N., Turcotte, H. Tremblay, A., Després, J. P., Boulet, L. (2011). Adiposity and pulmonary function: relationship with body fat distribution and systemic inflammation. Clinical And Investigative Medicine. Médecine Clinique Et Experimentale, 34(2), E64-E70.

Liu, A., Byrne, N. M., Kagawa, M., Ma, G., Kijboonchoo, K., Nasreddine, ... Hills, A. (2011). Ethnic differences in body fat distribution among Asian pre-pubertal children: a cross-sectional multicenter study. BMC Public Health, 11500. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-500

Evans, P. D., McIntyre, N. J., Fluck, R. J., McIntyre, C. W., Taal, M. (2012). Anthropomorphic measurements that include central fat distribution are more closely related with key risk factors than BMI in CKD Stage 3. Plos One, 7(4), e34699. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034699

Herd, S., Gower, B., Dashti, N., & Goran, M. (2001). Body fat, fat distribution and serum lipids, lipoproteins and apolipoproteins in African-American and Caucasian-American prepubertal children. International Journal Of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 25(2), 198.

Koster, A., Stenholm, S., Alley, D. E., Kim, L. J., Simonsick, E. M., Kanaya, A. M.,... Harris, T. (2010). Body fat distribution and inflammation among obese older adults with and without metabolic syndrome. Obesity 18(12), 2354-2361.

Novotny, R., Daida, Y. G., Grove, J. S., Le Marchand, L., Vijayadeva, V., 2006. Asian adolescents have a higher trunk:peripheral fat ratio than Whites. Journal of Nutrition 136(3), 136-642.

Rush, E. C., Freitas, I., & Plank, L. D. (2009). Body size, body composition and fat distribution: comparative analysis of European, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian Indian adults. British Journal of Nutrition, 102, 632-641.

Tanaka, S. S., Horimai, C. C., & Katsukawa, F. F. (2003). Ethnic differences in abdominal visceral fat accumulation between Japanese, African-Americans, and Caucasians: a meta-analysis. Acta Diabetologica, 40, 302-304. doi:10.1007/s00592-003-0093-z

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