Journal of Applied Physiology


This study had two objectives: 1) to establish magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a tool for measuring total and regional adipose tissue (AT) distribution in humans and 2) to assess the relationship between selected anthropometric variables and MRI-measured AT. Twenty-seven healthy men varying in age [40.8 +/- 14.5 (SD) yr], body mass index (28.5 +/- 4.8), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR, 0.96 +/- 0.07) participated in the study. Total AT volume was determined using a linear interpolation of AT areas obtained on consecutive slices (n = 41) taken from head to toe (10-mm thickness, 50-mm centers). The mean change for repeated measures of total AT volume was 2.9% (range 0.9-–4.3%). Large interindividual differences were observed for total AT volume (6.9–59.3 liters), subcutaneous AT (6.3–49.8 liters), and visceral AT (0.5–8.5 liters). Visceral AT represented 18.3% of the total AT. The single best predictor of total adiposity was waist circumference (R2 = 0.92). For visceral AT volume, WHR was the strongest anthropometric correlate (r = 0.85, P less than 0.01). When controlled for age and adiposity, however, WHR explained only 12% of the variation in absolute visceral AT and less than 1% of the variation in visceral-to-subcutaneous ratio. Age was a better predictor of visceral-to-subcutaneous ratio than level of adiposity or WHR. The results of this study demonstrate that MRI offers a reliable measure of regional and total AT distribution in humans and, thus, is of value as a research tool.