MRI-determined total volumes of visceral and subcutaneous abdominal and trunk adipose tissue are differentially and sex-dependently associated with patterns of estimated usual nutrient intake in a northern German population1–4

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Background: Visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous abdominal (SAAT) and trunk (STRAT) adipose tissue (AT) have been suggested to be differentially influenced by diet.

Objective: We investigated whether and to what extent usual patterns of nutrient intake are associated with VAT, SAAT, and STRAT compared with nondietary predictors in northern German adults (n = 583).

Design: AT volumes were quantified by magnetic resonance imaging. Nutrient intake was estimated by a 112-item food-frequency questionnaire linked to the German Food Code and Nutrient Database. Exploratory nutrient patterns were derived by principal components analysis (PCA) and partial least-squares regression (PLS) of 87 nutrients. Cross-sectional associations between nutrient patterns, single nutrients, or total energy intake and AT compartments were analyzed by multiple linear regression.

Results: Next to sex and age, respectively, which were important nondietary predictors and accounted for more of the variation in VAT (˜13% and ˜4%) than in SAAT or STRAT (both 4–7% and <1%), variation in VAT (16.8% or 17.6%) was explained to a greater extent by 9 or 2 nutrient patterns derived by principal components analysis or partial least-squares regression, respectively, than was variation in SAAT (10.6% or 8.2%) or STRAT (11.5% or 8.6%). Whereas VAT (16.6%) was primarily explained by nutrient quality, SAAT (6.9%) and STRAT (7.4%) were mainly explained by total energy intake. VAT was positively associated with nutrients characteristic of animal (except for dairy) products, including arachidonic acid (standardized b: 0.25; 95% CI: 0.15, 0.34; P < 0.0001), but negatively with dietary fiber, including polypentoses (standardized β: -0.17; 95% CI: -0.24, -0.09; P < 0.0001), and nutrients found in milk. The direction and strength of many associations, however, depended strongly on sex and adjustment for BMI.

Conclusion: VAT may be particularly associated with sex-specific interplays of nutrients found in animal products and fiber, whereas SAAT and STRAT are associated with total energy intake.

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