Anthropometric Measures of Adiposity as Predictors of Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat in Adolescence: The Saguenay Youth Study


      Visceral fat (VF) is associated with higher cardiometabolic risk than fat elsewhere in the body in adults and children. To measure VF directly is costly and not feasible in daily clinical settings. Here, we investigate how well routine clinical measures of adiposity, namely BMI and waist circumference (WC), predict VF in a large population-based sample of adolescents. As body-fat distribution differs between males and females, we performed these analyses separately in each sex.


      We studied 1,002 French-Canadian adolescents (482 males, 12 to 18-year old) as part of the Saguenay Youth Study. VF and subcutaneous fat (SF) were quantified by magnetic resonance imaging at the level of the umbilicus. Relationships between VF (or SF) and routine clinical measures of adiposity were tested with multivariate regression model, while adjusting for potentially confounding effects of age and height.


      Males and females were of similar age (p=0.18) and had similar BMI (p=0.75), higher WC (p<0.0001), similar VF (p=0.17) and lower SF (p<0.0001). In both sexes, VF (and SF) were highly correlated with BMI and WC, explaining 56-77% of each other's variance. However, when VF was adjusted for SF, BMI and WC explained only 0% and 4% of variance in males, and 4% and 11% of variance in females, respectively. In contrast, when SF was adjusted for VF, BMI and WC explained 37% and 21% of variance in males, and 48% and 23% in females, respectively.


      In adolescent males and females, routine clinical measures of adiposity predict well subcutaneous but not visceral adiposity. Given the clinical importance of VF, development of new techniques to quantify VF that would be less costly and suitable for everyday clinical practice is warranted.