Determinants of body fat distribution in humans may provide insight about obesity-related health risks

Aaron P. Frank, Roberta De Souza Santos, Biff F. Palmer, Deborah J. Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Obesity increases the risks of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and degrades quality of life, ultimately increasing the risk of death. However, not all forms of obesity are equally dangerous: some individuals, despite higher percentages of body fat, are at less risk for certain chronic obesity-related complications. Many open questions remain about why this occurs. Data suggest that the physical location of fat and the overall health of fat dramatically influence disease risk; for example, higher concentrations of visceral relative to subcutaneous adipose tissue are associated with greater metabolic risks. As such, understanding the determinants of the location and health of adipose tissue can provide insight about the pathological consequences of obesity and can begin to outline targets for novel therapeutic approaches to combat the obesity epidemic. Although age and sex hormones clearly play roles in fat distribution and location, much remains unknown about gene regulation at the level of adipose tissue or how genetic variants regulate fat distribution. In this review, we discuss what is known about the determinants of body fat distribution, and we highlight the important roles of sex hormones, aging, and genetic variation in the determination of body fat distribution and its contribution to obesity-related comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1710-1719
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019


  • Adipose tissue
  • Aging
  • Epigenetics
  • Estrogen
  • Genetics
  • Sex chromosomes
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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