Significant Associations of Age, Menopausal Status and Lifestyle Factors with Visceral Adiposity in African-American and European-American Women

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Background: Elevated visceral adiposity is strongly predictive of cardiometabolic disease, but, due to the high cost of biomedical imaging, assessment of factors contributing to normal variation in visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous (SAT) adipose tissue partitioning in large cohorts of healthy individuals are few, particularly in ethnic and racial minority populations.

Objective: To describe age, menopausal status, smoking and physical activity differences in VAT and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (ASAT) mass in African-American (AA) and European-American (EA) women.

Methods: Magnetic resonance imaging measures of VAT and ASAT mass and VAT% (VAT/VAT+ASAT, %) were obtained from a cross-sectional sample of 617 EA and 111 AA non-diabetic women aged 18–80 years. Multivariate linear regression was used to test independent effects of the covariates.

Results: VAT and VAT% were higher in EA than AA women (p < 0.01). Differences in VAT, ASAT and VAT% across age groups began in early adulthood in both ethnic groups, but the association of age with VAT% was stronger in EA women (p for interaction = 0.03). Current smokers had higher VAT and VAT% (p < 0.01) and lower TBF than non-smokers. Frequent participation in sports activities was associated with ∼30% lower VAT in older (>55 years) as well as younger ( < 40 years) women (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Greater allocation of abdominal adipose tissue into the visceral compartment occurs in EA than AA women and in older than younger women. Avoidance of cigarette smoking and frequent participation in sports activities may partially counteract this deleterious phenomenon of ageing.