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Visceral Fat Distribution Can Predict Liver Disease, Research Study Finds



Visceral body fat distribution can be a primary predictor of lipid content in the liver and pancreas of obese people, according to a report published online in the journal Obesity. This experiment provides a better understanding of fat accumulation around the liver and pancreas and can be useful in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and other obesity related diseases.

Andrea P. Rossi, of the Department of Biomedical and Surgical Science, Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Verona in Italy led a team which sought to investigate the link between body fat distribution, adipocytokines (cellular signaling proteins secreted by fat cells), dietary fat, lipid content and other factors of the liver and pancreas of obese men and women. To this end, they selected 41 other wise healthy, sedentary middle aged obese men and women with a mean BMI of 35.1 kg/m^2 to participate in the experiment.


Abdominal Fat Is A Primary Predictor Of Fat Storage Around The Liver And Pancreas

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed that visceral adipose tissue is a primary predictor of fat storage around the pancreas and liver in obese subjects, although it was more pronounced in obese men than in women. Investigators also found that subjects who increased their fat intake tended to store more fat in the liver and pancreas.

Conversely, obese subjects had lower adiponectin levels than lean controls. One of the roles of the hormone adiponectin is to prevent accumulation of triglycerides in liver cells, if there are lower concentrations of the hormone available then fat will inevitably build up in the liver.  

Curiously, increased fat intake led to insulin resistance in the liver but not the pancreas. When dietary fat consumption goes up, it has an adverse effect on fat regulation; adipose tissue will synthesize insufficient amounts of hormones and chemical messengers which can lead to insulin resistance and fat storage around abdominal organs.

Hepatic free fatty acids (FFAs) could be the culprit behind the observed insulin resistance. Investigators involved in the current study noted that previous experiments performed by other researchers found that the breakdown of visceral abdominal fat in people with higher amounts of visceral fat leads to increased amounts of free fatty acids.  

Rossi's team made other significant observations about fat distribution which include the following:

  1. Obese women had lower visceral abdominal fat than obese men even when their BMI was the same.
  2. The differences between the liver lipid content between obese men and women began to taper off after adjusting for visceral adipose tissue.
  3. There were no discernible gender difference in pancreatic lipid content after adjusting for visceral abdominal tissue.
  4. Obese subjects had a higher waist circumference than lean controls.


What The University of Verona's Fat Distribution Research Study Means To You

Fat accumulation around internal organs can lead to serious health problems, and with respect to the current study can contribute to diabetes, and liver failure. Health care professionals rely on certain tools to help them assess patient risk for development of obesity related diseases.

In the current study investigators wanted to determine the factors involved in fat distribution around the pancreas and liver. Their research found gender differences in how internal body fat is stored in the body. Some of their work supported previous findings; other studies have observed that women tend to store fat on the hips whereas men usually store fat in the abdomen.

For example, research studies published separately in the journal Obesity Reviews reported that sex hormones affected fat distribution in males and females. But Rossi's is the first to actually find visceral abdominal fat to be a reliable predictor of liver and pancreatic fat storage. This information can be useful in treating obesity related disease.


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Article Sources

Rossi, A.P. et al. Predictors of Ectopic Fat Accumulation in Liver and Pancreas in Obese Men and Women. Obesity (2011) 19 9, 1747 - 1754.

O'Sullivan, A.J. Does oestrogen allow women to store fat more efficiently? A biological advantage for fertility and gestation. Obesity Reviews DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00539.x

Mayes, J.S. and Watson, G.H. Direct effect of sex steroid hormones on adipose tissues and obesity. Obesity Reviews DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00152.x

"Visceral Fat Distribution Can Predict Liver Disease, Research Study Finds" copyright 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.



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