Knowledge of adipose composition in relation to mortality may help delineate inconsistent relationships between obesity and mortality in old age. We evaluated relationships between abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) density, mortality, biomarkers, and characteristics.
VAT and SAT density were determined from computed tomography scans in persons aged 65 and older, Health ABC (n = 2,735) and AGES-Reykjavik (n = 5,131), and 24 nonhuman primates (NHPs). Associations between adipose density and mortality (4-13 years follow-up) were assessed with Cox proportional hazards models. In NHPs, adipose density was related to serum markers and tissue characteristics.
Higher density adipose tissue was associated with mortality in both studies with adjustment for risk factors including adipose area, total fat, and body mass index. In women, hazard ratio and 95% CI for the densest quintile (Q5) versus least dense (Q1) for VAT density were 1.95 (1.36-2.80; Health ABC) and 1.88 (1.31-2.69; AGES-Reykjavik) and for SAT density, 1.76 (1.35-2.28; Health ABC) and 1.56 (1.15-2.11; AGES-Reykjavik). In men, VAT density was associated with mortality in Health ABC, 1.52 (1.12-2.08), whereas SAT density was associated with mortality in both Health ABC, 1.58 (1.21-2.07), and AGES-Reykjavik, 1.43 (1.07-1.91). Higher density adipose tissue was associated with smaller adipocytes in NHPs. There were no consistent associations with inflammation in any group. Higher density adipose tissue was associated with lower serum leptin in Health ABC and NHPs, lower leptin mRNA expression in NHPs, and higher serum adiponectin in Health ABC and NHPs.
VAT and SAT density provide a unique marker of mortality risk that does not appear to be inflammation related.