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CT-derived abdominal adiposity: Distributions and better predictive ability than BMI in a nationwide study of 59,429 adults in China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

the China Health Big Data (China Biobank) project investigators

Original languageEnglish
Article number154456
JournalMetabolism: clinical and experimental
PublishedFeb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work is supported by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation -Haidian Primitive Innovation Joint Fund (grant no. L172019 ). Funding Information: The authors thank all participants for their important contributions. This work is supported by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation-Haidian Primitive Innovation Joint Fund (grant no. L172019). Publisher Copyright: © 2020 The Authors Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors

  • the China Health Big Data (China Biobank) project investigators


Background: Although abdominal adiposity is associated with an altered cardiometabolic risk profile, the specific contribution of abdominal adipose tissue distribution remains not fully understood. Computed tomography (CT) is a well-established and precise method to measure abdominal adipose tissue distribution. The present study investigated abdominal adiposity assessed by CT in a large-scale Chinese population. Method: A total of 59,429 adults who underwent a low dose chest CT for lung cancer screening at one of 13 health checkup centers throughout China were evaluated. Abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) areas were measured at the center of the 2nd lumbar vertebra with Mindways quantitative CT software using the existing CT dataset without any additional radiation exposure. The ratio of visceral to total adipose tissue (TAT) areas (VAT/TAT ratio) was calculated and expressed as a percentage. Anthropometric indices including body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were also obtained. Results: BMI, waist circumference, VAT area, SAT area, and the VAT/TAT ratio were 25.0 ± 3.0 kg/m2, 90 ± 8 cm, 194 ± 77 cm2, 85 ± 41 cm2, and 69.5 ± 9.1%, respectively, in men and 23.3 ± 3.1 kg/m2, 79 ± 8 cm, 120 ± 57 cm2, 123 ± 53 cm2, and 48.9 ± 9.7% in women. With increasing age, VAT area and the VAT/TAT ratio increased in both sexes whereas SAT area decreased in men (P < 0.001 for all). After adjustment for BMI and waist circumference, older individuals showed higher VAT area and higher VAT/TAT ratio than younger subjects (P < 0.001 for all). Adjusted VAT areas in participants aged 75 or older was 45 cm2 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 41 cm2, 50 cm2) higher in men and 43 cm2 (95% CI: 37 cm2, 49 cm2) higher in women compared with participants aged 31–44 years. Additionally, differences in VAT area across age groups increased as BMI or waist circumference increased. VAT and SAT areas, but not the VAT/TAT ratio, were positively associated with BMI and waist circumference in every age group. Conclusion: In a nationwide study conducted in China, distributions of CT-derived measures of visceral and subcutaneous adiposity were found to vary significantly between sex and age groups. Our study also revealed that the proportion of VAT (an important driver of cardiometabolic risk) could not be predicted from BMI in a Chinese population.

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