The Analyze Blog

Visceral Adipose Tissue and Functional Dyspepsia

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Axial_Abdominal_CTSeveral studies have reported that obesity may be associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases. These conditions affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and the accessory organs of digestion, such as the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Recent data from the College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea, suggest that abdominal obesity and functional dyspepsia may also be linked. Functional dyspepsia is a clinical disorder of unknown origin characterized by chronic pain, burning, or discomfort in the upper abdomen, early satiation, and postprandial fullness.

In their study, obesity indices were not measured by BMI (Body Mass Index) alone. The group used visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue areas as indicators of obesity and compared their values between functional dyspepsia patients and healthy controls. Through the use of Analyze software, the scientists were able to quantify total adipose and visceral adipose tissue (fat that surrounds the inner organs) areas from CT scans. Subcutaneous adipose tissue area was then obtained by subtracting visceral adipose tissue area from total adipose tissue area.

A strong correlation between functional dyspepsia symptoms and visceral adipose tissue area was found in their screening cohort. The results indicated that visceral fat was more significantly associated with an increased risk of this condition than subcutaneous fat.

In fact, visceral adiposity may have both a mechanical and a metabolic effect on the onset of functional dyspepsia. As this type of fat is located inside the peritoneal cavity, its increase may cause high intra-abdominal pressure and in turn abnormal gastrointestinal motility of food. Furthermore, visceral fat may be considered a metabolically active organ that secretes pro-inflammatory factors responsible for systemic inflammation in obese subjects.

Results from this study highlight how BMI, which has been used as an indicator of obesity in several previous studies, cannot be used as an accurate measure of abdominal adiposity. Conversely, visceral adiposity measured by computed tomography may be considered a strong independent risk factor for the establishment of functional dyspepsia.

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