Previous studies have reported racial differences in the amount of visceral adipose tissue (VAT), a risk factor for metabolic diseases. These results are equivocal and have not controlled for hormonal influences on VAT mass. This study was designed to measure the extent to which race is associated with VAT, controlling for total adipose tissue (TAT) mass and testosterone.
Using a cross-sectional study design, we measured TAT mass using DXA, VAT and subcutaneous adipose tissue mass using magnetic resonance imaging, and sex hormones using radioimmunoassay in 224 African-American and white men and women.
White men had increased VAT mass, even when controlling for TAT and age, compared with African-American men. White women also had a higher VAT mass compared with African-American women, but only when controlling for TAT and age. When multiple linear regression was used to evaluate the racial differences in VAT mass in a subset of subjects (n=80), controlling for sex hormones, it was found that white men, but not women, had increased VAT mass compared with their African-American counterparts.
Based on the results of this study, we conclude that, when controlling for TAT, sex hormone levels, and age, white men, but not women, have more VAT mass than African-American men and women. Additional studies are needed to explore possible environmental and genetic influences on fat distribution relative to race and sex.