Significant associations of age, menopausal status and lifestyle factors with visceral adiposity in African-American and European-American women

Ellen W. Demerath, Nikki L. Rogers, Derek Reed, Miryoung Lee, Audrey C. Choh, Roger M. Siervogel, Wm Cameron Chumlea, Bradford Towne, Stefan A. Czerwinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Elevated visceral adiposity is strongly predictive of cardiometabolic disease, but, due to the high cost of biomedical imaging, assessment of factors contributing to normal variation in visceral (VAT) and subcutaneous (SAT) adipose tissue partitioning in large cohorts of healthy individuals are few, particularly in ethnic and racial minority populations. Objective: To describe age, menopausal status, smoking and physical activity differences in VAT and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (ASAT) mass in African-American (AA) and European-American (EA) women. Methods: Magnetic resonance imaging measures of VAT and ASAT mass and VAT% (VAT/VAT+ASAT, %) were obtained from a cross-sectional sample of 617 EA and 111 AA non-diabetic women aged 18-80 years. Multivariate linear regression was used to test independent effects of the covariates. Results: VAT and VAT% were higher in EA than AA women (p < 0.01). Differences in VAT, ASAT and VAT% across age groups began in early adulthood in both ethnic groups, but the association of age with VAT% was stronger in EA women (p for interaction = 0.03). Current smokers had higher VAT and VAT% (p < 0.01) and lower TBF than non-smokers. Frequent participation in sports activities was associated with ∼ 30% lower VAT in older (>55 years) as well as younger ( < 40 years) women (p < 0.0001). Conclusion: Greater allocation of abdominal adipose tissue into the visceral compartment occurs in EA than AA women and in older than younger women. Avoidance of cigarette smoking and frequent participation in sports activities may partially counteract this deleterious phenomenon of ageing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-256
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Declaration of interest: The study was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants DK064870, DK 064391, HD12252, and HL69995. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.


  • African-American
  • Menopause
  • adiposity
  • ageing
  • ethnicity
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • obesity
  • race
  • visceral adipose tissue
  • women


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