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Fat Depots and Metabolic Syndrome Risk in Black African Young Adults

Abdominal_FatMetabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Several studies have shown that abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VAT) accumulation plays an important role in the development of these risk factors. However, we don’t understand the specific mechanisms that may link VAT to the risk for disease. It has also been shown that individuals of black African origin tend to have less VAT and more abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SCAT) than white Caucasians, when comparing same degree of total body fat. However, the former subjects have higher risk of type 2 diabetes and unregulated insulin secretion.

To better understand these ethnic differences, scientists from the University of Cambridge investigated the link between abdominal fat depots, insulin sensitivity, and metabolic syndrome risk. 76 black South African young adults, aged 18-19 years, participated to the study.

The team measured metabolic syndrome traits such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lipid profile, fasting glucose, and insulin levels. Based on these values they derived a metabolic syndrome risk factor for each patient. VAT and SCAT areas were manually calculated from MRI images using Analyze software.

Their results confirmed that in black African young adults, the tendency to accumulate SCAT instead of VAT may have adverse consequences for insulin resistance and contribute to the development of obesity-related metabolic disease risks.

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