(HealthDay News) — The differences in the developmental profiles of upper-body and lower-body fat depots may explain their opposing associations with obesity-related metabolic disease, according to research published Diabetes.

Katherine E. Pinnick, DPhil, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues defined the relationship between dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)-quantified fat depots and metabolic risk factors in a cohort of 3,399 healthy individuals. 

The transcriptional profiles of 49 paired samples of gluteal subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) and abdominal SAT were compared across the BMI spectrum.

The researchers observed a negative correlation between gynoid fat mass and insulin resistance after total fat mass adjustment; a positive correlation was found for abdominal fat. 

For both depots, energy-generating metabolic genes were negatively linked and inflammatory genes were positively linked with obesity, but these associations were significantly weaker in gluteal SAT. 

Systemic arteriovenous release of interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine, was lower from gluteal SAT than abdominal SAT. Developmental differences were observed in preadipocytes from gluteal SAT vs. abdominal SAT.

“In conclusion, intrinsic differences in the expression of developmental genes in regional adipocytes provide a mechanistic basis for diversity in adipose tissue function,” the researchers wrote. “The less inflammatory nature of lower-body adipose tissue offers insight into the opposing metabolic disease risk associations between upper- and lower-body obesity.”


  1. Pinnick KE et al. Diabetes. 2014;63(11):3785-3797.