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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 28, 2014

Detrimental and protective fat: body fat distribution and its relation to metabolic disease

  • Andrea Booth , Aaron Magnuson and Michelle Foster EMAIL logo


Obesity is linked to numerous comorbidities that include, but are not limited to, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease. Current evidence suggests, however, obesity itself is not an exclusive predictor of metabolic dysregulation but rather adipose tissue distribution. Obesity-related adverse health consequences occur predominately in individuals with upper body fat accumulation, the detrimental distribution, commonly associated with visceral obesity. Increased lower body subcutaneous adipose tissue, however, is associated with a reduced risk of obesity-induced metabolic dysregulation and even enhanced insulin sensitivity, thus, storage in this region is considered protective. The proposed mechanisms that causally relate the differential outcomes of adipose tissue distribution are often attributed to location and/or adipocyte regulation. Visceral adipose tissue effluent to the portal vein drains into the liver where hepatocytes are directly exposed to its metabolites and secretory products, whereas the subcutaneous adipose tissue drains systemically. Adipose depots are also inherently different in numerous ways such as adipokine release, immunity response and regulation, lipid turnover, rate of cell growth and death, and response to stress and sex hormones. Proximal extrinsic factors also play a role in the differential drive between adipose tissue depots. This review focuses on the deleterious mechanisms postulated to drive the differential metabolic response between central and lower body adipose tissue distribution.

Corresponding author: Michelle Foster, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Gifford 207, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1571, USA, E-mail:


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Received: 2014-2-11
Accepted: 2014-2-12
Published Online: 2014-3-28
Published in Print: 2014-1-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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