Obesity has become a major health problem and in several countries its prevalence keeps rising. It is an important risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) through cardiometabolic abnormalities such as insulin resistance and hypertension. Moreso, it is the body fat distribution, abdominal obesity in particular, which is the basic culprit behind the excess risk of cardiometabolic disease associated with abdominal obesity and is due to the presence of large amounts of visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which is highly metabolically active. Also, the body fat distribution is different in males and females; and sex hormones may play a role in the adverse effects of VAT, associations of VAT with cardiometabolic risk factors may differ between men and women.
The type and distribution of fat in women is associated with improved cardiometabolic risk compared to men with a similar body mass index (BMI), according to a recent study. However, ectopic fat is associated with a greater cardiometabolic risk in women.
Findings from the study were presented on November 27, 2017, at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 2017 103rd Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting.1
To determine this risk in men and women, the researchers assessed 200 otherwise-healthy overweight or obese individuals. A total of 109 patients were women, and 91 were men. Age and BMI were similar between women and men.
Findings indicated that women had a higher percentage of fat and subcutaneous fat but a lower percentage of lean mass vs men. Men also had more visceral adipose tissue, or ectopic fat, in the abdomen around the internal organs, as well as ectopic fat in the muscles and liver.
Overall, men had higher measures of cardiometabolic risk compared with women. However, ectopic fat in men was not strongly associated with cardiometabolic risk, whereas ectopic fat was significantly associated with cardiometabolic risk in women.
“Obese men have relatively higher visceral fat, fat within muscle cells, and liver fat, which are all risk factors for cardiometabolic disease, compared to women with the same BMI,” the researchers said. “However, men have higher muscle and lean mass, which are protective for cardiometabolic health. Women have a higher relative amount of total body fat and higher superficial thigh fat, which is protective for cardiometabolic health.”