Diet and adipose tissue distributions: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

R. V. Shah, V. L. Murthy, M. A. Allison, J. Ding, M. Budoff, A. C. Frazier-Wood, J. A C Lima, L. Steffen, D. Siscovick, K. L. Tucker, P. Ouyang, S. A. Abbasi, K. Danielson, M. Jerosch-Herold, D. Mozaffarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Dietary quality affects cardiometabolic risk, yet its pathways of influence on regional adipose tissue depots involved in metabolic and diabetes risk are not well established. We aimed to investigate the relationship between dietary quality and regional adiposity. Methods and results: We investigated 5079 individuals in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who had food-frequency questionnaires and measurement of pericardial fat and hepatic attenuation at the baseline study visit in MESA, as well as a subgroup with imaging for visceral and subcutaneous fat (N = 1390). A dietary quality score (DietQuality) was constructed to include established food group constituents of a Mediterranean-type diet. Linear models estimated associations of dietary score as well as its constituents with regional adiposity. Baseline mean age was 61 (±10) years, and approximately half of the participants (47%) were male. Those with a higher DietQuality score were generally older, female, with a lower body mass index, C-reactive protein, and markers of insulin resistance. After adjustment, a higher DietQuality score was associated with lower visceral fat (lowest vs. highest dietary score quartile: 523.6 vs. 460.5 cm2/m; P < 0.01 for trend), pericardial fat (47.5 vs. 41.3 cm3/m; P < 0.01 for trend), lesser hepatic steatosis (by hepatic attenuation; 58.6 vs. 60.7 Hounsfield units; P < 0.01 for trend), but not subcutaneous fat (P = 0.39). Greater fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds/nuts and yogurt intake were associated with decreased adiposity, while red/processed meats were associated with greater regional adiposity. Conclusion: A higher quality diet pattern is associated with less regional adiposity, suggesting a potential mechanism of beneficial dietary effects on diabetes, metabolic, and cardiovascular risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalNutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by contracts N01-HC-95159, N01-HC-95160, N01-HC-95161, N01-HC-95162, N01-HC-95163, N01-HC-95164, N01-HC-95165, N01-HC-95166, N01-HC-95167, N01-HC-95168 and N01-HC-95169 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and by grants UL1-TR-000040 and UL1-TR-001079 from National Center for Research Resources. In addition, adiposity assessments were supported by grants R01-HL085323 (to JD), R01-HL088451 (to MA), and R01-HL071739 (to MB). Dr. Shah is supported by an American Heart Association Fellow-to-Faculty Award. The authors thank the other investigators, the staff, and the participants of the MESA study for their valuable contributions. A full list of participating MESA investigators and institutions can be found at


  • Adiposity
  • Body mass index
  • Diet
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity

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