Hepatic triglyceride content and its relation to body adiposity: a magnetic resonance imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

E L Thomas, G Hamilton, N Patel, R O'Dwyer, C J Doré, R D Goldin, J D Bell, S D Taylor-Robinson
Gut 2005, 54 (1): 122-7

BACKGROUND: Hepatic steatosis is associated with obesity and type II diabetes. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) is a non-invasive method for measurement of tissue fat content, including intrahepatocellular lipids (IHCL) and intramyocellular lipids (IMCL).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We used 1H MRS and whole body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the relationship between IHCL accumulation, total body adipose tissue (AT) content/distribution, and IMCL content in 11 subjects with biopsy proven hepatic steatosis and 23 normal volunteers.

RESULTS: IHCL signals were detectable in all subjects but were significantly greater in hepatic steatosis (geometric mean (GM) 11.5 (interquartile range (IQR) 7.0-39.0)) than in normal volunteers (GM 2.7 (IQR 0.7-9.3); p=0.02). In the study group as a whole, IHCL levels were significantly greater in overweight compared with lean subjects (body mass index (BMI) >25 kg/m2 (n=23): GM 7.7 (IQR 4.0-28.6) v BMI <25 kg/m2 (n=11): GM 1.3 (IQR 0.3-3.6; p=0.004)). There was a significant association between IHCL content and indices of overall obesity (expressed as a percentage of body weight) for total body fat (p=0.001), total subcutaneous AT (p=0.007), and central obesity (subcutaneous abdominal AT (p=0.001) and intra-abdominal AT (p=0.001)), after allowing for sex and age. No correlation between IHCL content and IMCL was observed. A significant correlation was observed between serum alanine aminotransferase and liver fat content (r=0.57, p=0.006).

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that hepatic steatosis appears to be closely related to body adiposity, especially central obesity. MRS may be a useful method for monitoring IHCL in future interventional studies.

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