Prediction of visceral adipose tissue

Visceral adipose tissue is the fat stored around internal organs. Its increase has been linked as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and atherosclerosis, and metabolic diseases.

Adipose tissue or fat tissue is made up of cells capable of accumulating fat, the adipocytes. This tissue has various functions such as metabolic, cushioning, protecting and holding in place internal organs and other structures of the body.

In the human body, adipose tissue is located under the skin (subcutaneous fat), around the organs (visceral fat), in the bone marrow (yellow bone marrow) and in the breasts. Specifically, visceral fat functions as a lipid reserve and provides protection. In general, men have a higher level of visceral fat due to the protective effect of estrogens during childbearing age, which decreases after menopause.

Visceral fat is located in the abdominal cavity and its excess has been directly related to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammatory diseases and other obesity-related diseases. Why abdominal fat is more harmful than other fat deposits, such as subcutaneous adipose tissue, has not been fully elucidated. Possible hypotheses point to a greater lipolytic capacity and its resistance to the antilipolytic effects of insulin, resulting in higher concentrations of circulating fatty acids. In addition, studies also point to visceral fat having a higher rate of macrophage infiltration, resulting in a proinflammatory profile that promotes insulin resistance.

Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) - the fat stored around internal organs - is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The heritability of this trait is thought to be higher than that of other anthropometric traits, such as waist circumference, and common genetic variants may explain up to 40% of the variation in visceral adipose tissue in men and women. An important GWAS study involving more than 300,000 individuals of European ancestry has identified 199 markers associated with this trait, among which we can observe that the markers that have the greatest effect on variability are genes such as FTO or MC4R, associated in turn with other related traits such as body mass index or obesity risk. This study also identified markers belonging to the TMEM18 gene, which produces a protein that affects insulin and glucagon signaling levels, and has therefore also been related to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Number of observed variants

13.5 million variants

Number of loci analyzed in the study

198 loci


Karlsson T., Rask-Andersen M., et al. Contribution of genetics to visceral adiposity and its relation to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Nature Medicine, 09 Sep 2019, 25(9):1390-1395

Mittal B. Subcutaneous adipose tissue & visceral adipose tissue. Indian J Med Res. 2019;149(5):571-573. doi:10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_1910_18

Suárez-Cuenca, J.A., De La Peña-Sosa, G., De La Vega-Moreno, K. et al. Enlarged adipocytes from subcutaneous vs. visceral adipose tissue differentially contribute to metabolic dysfunction and atherogenic risk of patients with obesity. Sci Rep, 2021; 11, 1831.

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