Vol 3, No 3 (2002): Practical Diabetology
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Published online: 2002-09-24

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Contribution of abdominal adiposity to age-related differences in insulin sensitivity and plasma lipids in healthy nonobese women

Walter F. DeNino, Andre Tchernof, Isabelle J. Dionne, Michael J. Toth, Philip A. Ades, Cynthia K. Sites, Eric T. Poehlman
Diabetologia Praktyczna 2002;3(3):129-138.


INTRODUCTION. We examined the hypothesis that an age-related increase in the compartments of visceral fat would account, in part, for the deleterious changes in insulin sensitivity and blood lipid profile in nonobese women.
MATERIAL AND METHODS. We directly assessed visceral and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue areas (computed tomography), glucose disposal (hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp), body composition (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry), blood-lipid profile, and aerobic fitness (VO2max) in 178 nonobese women categorized into four age groups: group 1, 28 ± 4 years, n = 88; group 2, 46 ± 2 years, n = 38; group 3, 53 ± 2 years, n = 31; and group 4, 67 ± 6 years, n = 21.
RESULTS. Visceral abdominal adipose tissue area increased with age (2.36 cm2 per year, P < 0.0001). We noted an age-related increase in total cholesterol (P < 0.0003), triglycerides (P < 0.0009), LDL cholesterol (P < 0.027), and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (P < 0.042). However, agerelated changes in insulin sensitivity exhibited a different age-related pattern. That is, insulin sensitivity, expressed on an absolute basis or indexed per kilogram of fat-free mass, was lowest in group 4 but was not significantly different among groups 1, 2, and 3. After statistical control for visceral fat, lower insulin sensitivity persisted in group 4, although differences were diminished relative to other groups. However, the effect of visceral fat on agerelated changes in the blood-lipid profile was stronger. That is, differences in visceral and deep subcutaneous adipose tissue area abolished age-related differences in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. No independent effects of VO2max or leisure-time physical activity on age-related changes in insulin sensitivity or on the blood-lipid profile were noted.
CONCLUSIONS. We conclude that 1) visceral fat shows an increase with advancing age, whereas a decrease in insulin sensitivity was noted only in older women; 2) age-related differences in visceral fat explain only a modest part of the decline in insulin sensitivity in nonobese women; and 3) unfavorable changes in plasma lipids were strongly associated with the age-related increase in visceral abdominal adipose tissue.

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