Subcutaneous adipocyte size and body fat distribution

Yourka D. Tchoukalova, Christina Koutsari, Maksym V. Karpyak, Susanne B. Votruba, Eliana Wendland, Michael D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Background: Both body fat distribution and adipocyte size are associated with metabolic abnormalities. Objective: We defined the extent to which subcutaneous adipocyte size is related to regional fat mass and to the sizes of adipocytes in other subcutaneous depots independent of adiposity, age, and sex. Design: Data collected from 188 women and 133 men who were 18-50 y old and who had a body mass index (in kg/m2) of 18 to 50 were analyzed. The mean size of isolated subcutaneous abdominal, femoral, and gluteal adipocytes was measured by direct microscopy or by automated analysis of digital images. Visceral fat area was measured with computed tomography. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to calculate adiposity. Results: Stepwise multiple regression analyses showed that abdominal adipocyte size was associated positively with visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat areas and negatively with lower-body fat mass as a percentage of total-body fat, after control for sex and percentage body fat. Femoral adipocyte size was related to percentage body fat (P < 0.0001), whereas gluteal adipocyte size was related to visceral fat area (P = 0.002), which suggests that these 2 lower-body fat depots are distinct. Analyses of data from a subset of volunteers (n = 99) for whom we had adipocyte size from all 3 depots showed that adipocyte size from 1 depot could be better predicted if adipocyte size from other depots were known. Conclusions: Abdominal adipocyte size is related to body fat distribution. Adipocyte size in a person seems to be globally regulated by factors independent of variations in body fat distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-63
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Biopsy of fatty tissue
  • Body composition
  • Obesity
  • Visceral fat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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