BACKGROUND: Abdominal obesity is a well-established risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. However, sex differences may exist. We aimed to investigate the associations of abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) with insulin resistance and insulin secretion in men and women.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional analysis of the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study, fasting and postprandial concentrations of glucose and insulin were measured and abdominal fat depots were assessed using magnetic resonance imaging in 2253 participants (53% women). With linear regression analysis, we examined associations of abdominal SAT and VAT with measures of insulin resistance and insulin secretion in men and women, while adjusting for age, ethnicity, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, menopausal state and hormone use in women, and models with VAT additionally for total body fat.
RESULTS: Participants had a mean [standard deviation (SD)] age of 56 (6) years, body mass index: 25.9 (3.9) kg/m2, VAT: 89 (55) cm2, and SAT: 235 (95) cm2. In the multivariate models in men, per SD of VAT the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) was 20% (95% CI: 14-26) higher, and per SD SAT 21% (15-27) higher. In women, per SD of VAT the HOMA-IR was 40% (29-52) higher, and per SD SAT 12% (6-19) higher. Associations with measures of insulin secretion were weaker than with insulin resistance.
CONCLUSIONS: In men, abdominal SAT and VAT were associated with insulin resistance to a similar extent, whereas in women particularly VAT was associated with insulin resistance and insulin secretion. Future studies need to unravel the mechanisms underlying the metabolic effects of visceral fat in women. Simple and less expensive measures that can distinct abdominal subcutaneous and visceral fat are needed for an improved metabolic risk stratification.