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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Abdominal fat depots associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome risk factors in black African young adults

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Emanuella De Lucia Rolfe, Ken K. Ong, Alison Sleigh, David B. Dunger, Shane A. Norris
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-015-2147-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

EDLR: statistical analysis and manuscript preparation under the guidance of KKO and SAN. AS processed and analysed the MRI data and provided critical input on the data analysis. SAN, KKO and DBD conceived the idea of this study, were responsible for the overall design and in particular SAN managed and supervised data collection. All authors provided interpretation of the results, revised the different versions of the manuscript and approved the final version.



Individuals of black African ethnicity tend to have less visceral adipose tissue (VAT) but more subcutaneous-abdominal adipose tissue (SCAT) than white Caucasians. However, it is unclear whether such distribution of abdominal fat is beneficial for metabolic disease risk in black individuals. Here we compared the associations between these specific abdominal fat depots, insulin sensitivity and metabolic syndrome risk.


A cross-sectional analysis of 76 black South African young adults (36 men; 40 women) aged 18–19 years participating in the Birth to Twenty Cohort Study had VAT and SCAT measured by MRI. The metabolic syndrome traits (blood pressure, lipid profile, fasting glucose and insulin) were measured and the values were combined into a metabolic syndrome risk score. Fasting glucose and insulin were used to derive the HOMA-index of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).


Compared to men, women had greater VAT (mean: 16.6 vs. 12.5 cm2) and SCAT (median 164.0 vs. 59.9 cm2). In men, SCAT (r = 0.50) was more strongly correlated to the metabolic syndrome score (MetS) than was VAT (r = 0.23), and was associated with both MetS (P = 0.001) and HOMA-IR (P = 0.001) after adjustment for VAT and total fat mass. In women, both abdominal fat compartments showed comparable positive correlations with MetS (r = 0.26 to 0.31), although these trends were weaker than in men.


In young black South African adults, SCAT appears to be more relevant than VAT to metabolic syndrome traits.
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