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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Fat distribution is a strong and independent predictor of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and is usually determined using conventional anthropometry in epidemiological studies. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) can measure total and regional adiposity more accurately. Nonetheless, whether DXA provides more precise estimates of cardiovascular risk in relation to total and regional adiposity is not known. We determined the strength of the associations between DXA- and conventional anthropometry determined fat distribution and T2D and CVD risk markers. SUBJECTS/METHODS: Waist (WC) and hip circumference (HC) and DXA was used to measure total and regional adiposity in 4950 (2119 men) participants aged 29-55 years from the Oxford Biobank without pre-existing T2D or CVD. Cross-sectional associations were compared between WC and HC vs. DXA-determined regional adiposity (all z-score normalised) with impaired fasting glucose, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension and insulin resistance (IR). RESULTS: Following adjustment for total adiposity, upper body adiposity measurements showed consistently increased risk of T2D and CVD risk markers except for abdominal subcutaneous fat in both sexes, and arm fat in men, which showed protective associations. Among upper adiposity depots, visceral fat mass showed stronger odds ratios (OR) ranging from 1.69 to 3.64 compared with WC 1.07-1.83. Among lower adiposity depots, HC showed modest protection for IR in both sexes (men: OR 0.80 (95% confidence interval 0.67, 0.96); women: 0.69 (0.56, 0.86)), whereas gynoid fat and in particular leg fat showed consistent and strong protective effects for all outcomes in both men and women. The differential effect of body fat distribution on CVD and T2D were more pronounced at higher levels of total adiposity. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with DXA, conventional anthropometry underestimates the associations of regional adiposity with T2D and CVD risk markers. After correcting for overall adiposity, greater subcutaneous fat mass in particular in the lower body is protective relative to greater android or visceral adipose tissue mass.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Obes (Lond)

Publication Date





850 - 857


Absorptiometry, Photon, Adipose Tissue, Adult, Anthropometry, Body Size, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cross-Sectional Studies, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Risk Factors