Prevalence, Distribution and Risk Factor Correlates of High Pericardial and Intra-thoracic Fat Depots in the Framingham Heart Study

OBJECTIVES: Pericardial and intra-thoracic fat depots may represent novel risk factors for obesity-related cardiovascular disease. We sought to determine the prevalence, distribution and risk factor correlates of high pericardial and intra-thoracic fat deposits.

METHODS: Participants from the Framingham Heart Study (n=3312; mean age 52 years, 48% women) underwent multi-detector CT imaging in 2002-2005; high pericardial and high intra-thoracic fat were defined based on the sex-specific 90th percentile for these fat depots in a healthy reference sample.

RESULTS: For men and women, the prevalence of high pericardial fat was 29.3% and 26.3%, respectively, and high intra-thoracic fat was 31.4% and 35.3%, respectively. Overall, 22.1% of the sample was discordant for pericardial and intra-thoracic fat depots: 8.3% had high pericardial but normal intra-thoracic fat, and 13.8% had high intra-thoracic but normal pericardial fat. Higher body mass index, higher waist circumference (WC) and increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome were more likely in participants with high intra-thoracic fat depots than with high pericardial fat (p<0.05 for all comparisons). High abdominal visceral adipose tissue was more frequent in participants with high intra-thoracic adipose tissue compared to those with high pericardial fat (p<0.001). Intra-thoracic fat, but not WC, was more highly correlated with VAT (r=0.76 and 0.78 in men and women, respectively; p<0.0001) than with SAT (r=0.46 and 0.54 in men and women, respectively; p<0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Although prevalence of pericardial fat and intra-thoracic fat were comparable at 30%, intra-thoracic fat correlated more closely with metabolic risk and visceral fat. Intra-thoracic fat may be a potential marker of metabolic risk and visceral fat on thoracic imaging. Spencer Long Authentic Jersey

PMID: 20525769

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