Abdominal Fat Depots and Subclinical Carotid Artery Atherosclerosis in Women With and Without HIV Infection

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Data on associations between abdominal fat depot mass and subclinical atherosclerosis are limited, especially in women with HIV.


We assessed cross-sectional associations of dual X-ray absorptiometry scan-derived estimates of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) with 3 measures of subclinical carotid artery atherosclerosis—carotid artery stiffness (Young's modulus of elasticity), presence of carotid artery lesions, and carotid artery intima-media thickness—in a subsample of participants in the Women's Interagency HIV Study. Statistical models adjusted for demographic variables, HIV serostatus, behavioral variables, and cardiovascular risk factors.


There were 244 women with and 99 without HIV infection (median age 42, 62% black). VAT mass (but not SAT) was associated with greater carotid artery stiffness in a fully adjusted linear regression model, including adjustment for SAT (β = 11.3 log 103·N·m−2 per kg VAT, 95% confidence interval: 1.0 to 21.7). Greater SAT mass was associated with lower odds of having a carotid artery lesion in a fully adjusted model, including adjustment for VAT [adjusted odds ratio, 0.49 per kg of SAT (0.25 to 0.94)]. Neither VAT nor SAT was associated with carotid artery intima-media thickness. The VAT/SAT ratio was not statistically associated with any of the outcomes after covariate adjustment.


In our cross-sectional study of women, the majority of whom had HIV, greater VAT mass was associated with increased carotid artery stiffness, whereas greater SAT mass was associated with a reduced odds of prevalent carotid artery lesions.

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