Association of proton density fat fraction in adipose tissue with imaging-based and anthropometric obesity markers in adults

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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of the proton density fat fraction (PDFF), measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), of supraclavicular and gluteal adipose tissue with subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue (SAT and VAT) volumes, liver fat fraction and anthropometric obesity markers. The supraclavicular fossa was selected as a typical location where brown adipocytes may be present in humans and the gluteal region was selected as a typical location enclosing primarily white adipocytes.


In this cross-sectional study, 61 adults (44 women, median age 29.3 years, range 21-68 years) underwent an MRI examination of the neck and the abdomen/pelvis (3T, Ingenia, Philips Healthcare). PDFF maps of the supraclavicular and gluteal adipose tissue and the liver were generated. Volumes of SAT and VAT were calculated and supraclavicular and subcutaneous fat were segmented using custom-built post-processing algorithms. Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio were recorded. Statistical analysis was conducted using the Student's t-test and Pearson correlation analysis.


Mean supraclavicular PDFF was 75.3 ± 4.7% (range 65.4-83.8%) and mean gluteal PDFF was 89.7 ± 2.9% (range 82.2-94%), resulting in a significant difference (P < 0.0001). Supraclavicular PDFF was positively correlated with VAT (r = 0.76, P < 0.0001), SAT (r = 0.73, P < 0.0001), liver PDFF (r = 0.42, P = 0.0008) and all measured anthropometric obesity markers. Gluteal subcutaneous PDFF also correlated with VAT (r = 0.59, P < 0.0001), SAT (r = 0.63, P < 0.0001), liver PDFF (r = 0.3, P = 0.02) and anthropometric obesity markers.


The positive correlations between adipose tissue PDFF and imaging, as well as anthropometric obesity markers suggest that adipose tissue PDFF may be useful as a biomarker for improving the characterization of the obese phenotype, for risk stratification and for selection of appropriate treatment strategies.

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