J Epidemiol. 2021 Feb 27. doi: 10.2188/jea.JE20200538. Online ahead of print.
AIMS: As the proportion of visceral (VAT) to subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) may contribute to type 2 diabetes (T2D) development, we examined this relation in a cross-sectional design within the Multiethnic Cohort that includes Japanese Americans known to have high VAT. The aim was to understand how ectopic fat accumulation differs by glycemic status across ethnic groups with disparate rates of obesity, T2D, and propensity to accumulate VAT.
METHODS: In 2013-16, 1,746 participants aged 69.2 (2.7) years from five ethnic groups completed questionnaires, blood collections, and whole-body DXA and abdominal MRI scans. Participants with self-reported T2D and/or medication were classified as T2D, those with fasting glucose >125 and 100-125 mg/dL as undiagnosed cases (UT2D) and prediabetes (PT2D), respectively. Using linear regression, we estimated adjusted means of adiposity measures by T2D status.
RESULTS: Overall, 315 (18%) participants were classified as T2D, 158 (9%) as UT2D, 518 (30%) as PT2D, and 755 (43%) as normoglycemic (NG) with significant ethnic differences (p<0.0001). In fully adjusted models, VAT, VAT/SAT, and percent liver fat increased significantly from NG, PT2D, UT2D, to T2D (p<0.001). Across ethnic groups, the VAT/SAT ratio was lowest for NG participants and highest for T2D cases. Positive trends were observed in all groups except African Americans, with highest VAT/SAT in Japanese Americans.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that VAT plays an important role in T2D etiology, in particular among Japanese Americans with high levels of ectopic adipose tissue, which drives the development of T2D to a greater degree than in other ethnic groups.