Obese individuals with excess visceral fat are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center. However, those with excess abdominal subcutaneous fat underneath the skin were not at higher risk for the onset of diabetes.
Because of this, researchers are able to identify obese persons who are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes years it develops by using imaging methods to determine the location and function of body fat.
“Among obese individuals, it is not necessarily how much fat a person has, but rather where the fat is located on a person that leads to diabetes,” according to the paper’s senior author, James de Lemos, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern in a statement.
The study, which was UT Southwestern’s Dallas Heart Study, sampled 732 obese adults between the ages of 30 and 65, without diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
When participants returned for a follow-up after seven years, researchers found that 11 percent of the people sampled developed diabetes. Among the participants who had normal glucose at baseline testing, 39 percent developed prediabetes or diabetes, according to the study. Those who developed prediabetes and diabetes had higher amounts of visceral fat and greater insulin resistance compared to those who remained healthy.
The study is one of the largest of its kind to assess a multiethnic population of obese people in the U.S. using extensive imaging of adipose tissue