Clinical utility of visceral adipose tissue for the identification of cardiometabolic risk in white and African American adults1-3

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Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) has been identified as a harmful fat depot, and sex and race differences in VAT have been reported in white and African Americans.


We determined the clinical utility of VAT in the identification of individuals at elevated cardiometabolic risk in white and African American adults and compared the clinical utility with measures obtained by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and anthropometric measures.


The sample included 429 white women, 311 African American women, 406 white men, and 100 African American men who were 18-74 y of age. VAT was measured by using computed tomography, fat mass (FM) and percentage of body fat were measured by using DXA, and waist circumference (WC) and BMI were assessed. Receiver operating characteristic curves were used to compare the utility of measures in the identification of participants in the upper quintile of a continuous score derived from principal components analysis of fasting glucose, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.


The clinical utility of measures varied across sex-by-race groups. In the overall sample, the areas under the curve were significantly higher for VAT and WC in comparison with the other indicators. Identified VAT thresholds were higher in white men (140 cm2) and women (141 cm2) than in African American men (82 cm2) and women (97 cm2).


VAT and WC showed greater clinical utility than did other obesity measures. Because of the complexity of measuring VAT, the use of WC is recommended for the identification of adults with elevated cardiometabolic risk factors. The Pennington Center Longitudinal Study was registered at as NCT00959270.

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