Association between low thigh fat and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

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Background and Aim

Some people have a fatty liver despite having low visceral fat and a low body mass index (BMI). We investigated whether fat distribution, especially thigh subcutaneous fat and thigh intramuscular fat, is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


The patients consisted of 408 men and women. NAFLD was defined by an ultrasound scan and excluded other liver diseases. Visceral, subcutaneous abdominal, intramuscular, and subcutaneous thigh adipose tissue was measured by computed tomography.


The frequency of NAFLD decreased over a quartile of thigh fat independently of BMI in the female patients. Additional adjustments for age and visceral fat area did not change the results. This finding was not observed in the male patients. To investigate the relationship between each fat distribution and NAFLD, we performed a logistic regression analysis. Fat distribution was divided into four groups: visceral fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat, thigh subcutaneous fat, and thigh intramuscular fat. All four fat components were chosen as variables for the regression model. Age, BMI, and the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index were then adjusted successively. A larger subcutaneous fat area was negatively associated with NAFLD after adjustment for visceral fat and abdominal subcutaneous fat areas in women, but not in men. It did not change even after age adjustment, BMI, and the HOMA index.


Low femoral subcutaneous fat amounts were shown to be independently associated with fatty liver disease in women. These results show the importance of accurate measurements of other regional body compositions as well as visceral fat amounts when investigating NAFLD.

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