Age and sex variation in visceral adipose tissue


  • Pallavi Panchu Department of Physiology, Jubilee Mission Medical College and Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala, India
  • Biju Bahuleyan Department of Physiology, Jubilee Mission Medical College and Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala, India
  • Rose Babu Department of Physiology, Jubilee Mission Medical College and Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala, India
  • Vineetha Vijayan Department of Physiology, Jubilee Mission Medical College and Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala, India



Gender, Lifestyle, Metabolic disorders, Subcutaneous fat, Visceral fat


Background: Adipose tissue mainly visceral fat is said to be harmful and acts as a harbinger of metabolic disorders. A changing trend is seen in the recent decades with decreasing incidence of metabolic disorders in men even though visceral fat is said to be higher in them. Sex hormones may influence the deposition pattern of adipose tissue. The aim of this study was to observe effects of age on visceral fat and to know if the difference in gender pattern of fat distribution is maintained throughout life or disappears after menopause.

Methods: This cross-sectional observational study was conducted in Thrissur on 385 apparently healthy subjects using Omron body composition analyser. Data was analysed using SPSS 20.0 version. The tests employed were NOVA, independent samples t-test.

Results: In each age group, men had significantly higher visceral fat than females. As age increased, visceral fat increased significantly in both genders. In each group, except for younger age groups, VF levels were equal in men and women.

Conclusions: Visceral fat is higher in men and this difference is seen in all age groups. As age increases, visceral fat levels also increased in men and women. The distribution of visceral fat is such that a greater number of men have high to very high levels at a younger age group, a feature observed in women only in the peri and post-menopausal age. Adoption of an active lifestyle coupled with healthy diet should protect against onset of metabolic disorders.


The University of New Mexico. Gender differences in fat metabolism; 2002. Available at: Accessed on 24/09/2018.

Endocrine News. The dangers of visceral fat; 2013. Available at: Accessed on 24/09/2018.

Rosenzweig JL, Ferrannini E, Grundy SM, Haffner SM, Heine RJ, Horton ES, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in patients at metabolic risk: an endocrine society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93(10):3671-89.

Hunter GR, Gower BA, Kane BL. Age related shift in visceral fat. Inter J Body Composition Res. 2010;8(3):103.

Mosca L, Benjamin EJ, Berra K, Bezanson JL, Dolor RJ, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Effectiveness-based guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women-2011 update: a guideline from the American Heart Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;57(12):1404-23.

Lynn S. Bickley, eds. Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. 12 ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2016.

Suresh N, Reddy RL. Effect of lifestyle on body fat percentage and visceral fat in Indian women with above normal body mass index. Int J Cur Res. 2017;9(19):32.

Wan CS, Ward LC, Halim J, Gow ML, Ho M, Briody JN, et al. Bioelectrical impedance analysis to estimate body composition and change in adiposity, in overweight and obese adolescents: comparison with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. BMC Pediatrics. 2014;14(1):249.

Karastergiou K, Smith SR, Greenberg AS, Fried SK. Sex differences in human adipose tissues-the biology of pear shape. Biol Sex Diff. 2012;3(1):13.

Rebuffé-Scrive M, Andersson B, Olbe L, Björntorp P. Metabolism of adipose tissue in intraabdominal depots of nonobese men and women. Metab-Clin Experimental. 1989;38(5):453-8.

Mauriege P, Galitzky J, Berlan M, Lafontan M. Heterogeneous distribution of beta and alpha‐2 adrenoceptor binding sites in human fat cells from various fat deposits: functional consequences. Euro J Clin Investigation. 1987;17(2):156-65.

Womersley J, Durnin JV. A comparison of the skinfold method with extent of ‘overweight’and various weight-height relationships in the assessment of obesity. Brit J Nutri. 1977;38(2):271-84.

Jackson AS, Stanforth PR, Gagnon J, Rankinen T, Leon AS, Rao DC, et al. The effect of sex, age and race on estimating percentage body fat from body mass index: the heritage family study. Inter J Obes. 2002;26(6):789.

He Q, Horlick M, Thornton J, Wang J, Pierson Jr RN, Heshka S, et al. Sex and race differences in fat distribution among Asian, African-American, and Caucasian prepubertal children. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(5):2164-70.

Taylor RW, Grant AM, Williams SM, Goulding A. Sex differences in regional body fat distribution from pre‐to post puberty. Obes. 2010;18(7):1410-6.

Nielsen TL, Hagen C, Wraae K, Brixen K, Petersen PH, Haug E, et al. Visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue assessed by magnetic resonance imaging in relation to circulating androgens, sex hormone-binding globulin, and luteinizing hormone in young men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(7):2696-705.

Fried SK, Kral JG. Sex differences in regional distribution of fat cell size and lipoprotein lipase activity in morbidly obese patients. Inter J Obesity. 1987;11(2):129-40.

Fuente-Martín E, Argente-Arizón P, Ros P, Argente J, Chowen JA. Sex differences in adipose tissue: it is not only a question of quantity and distribution. Adipocyte. 2013;2(3):128-34.

Adler ES, Hollis JH, Clarke IJ, Grattan DR, Oldfield BJ. Neurochemical characterization and sexual dimorphism of projections from the brain to abdominal and subcutaneous white adipose tissue in the rat. J Neurosci. 2012 Nov 7;32(45):15913-21.

Xu Y, Nedungadi TP, Zhu L, Sobhani N, Irani BG, Davis KE, et al. Distinct hypothalamic neurons mediate estrogenic effects on energy homeostasis and reproduction. Cell Metab. 2011;14(4):453-65.

Pradhan AD. Sex differences in the metabolic syndrome: implications for cardiovascular health in women. Clin Chem. 2014;60(1):44-52.

Sathish T, Kannan S, Sarma SP, Razum O, Sauzet O, Thankappan KR. Seven-year longitudinal change in risk factors for non-communicable diseases in rural Kerala, India: the WHO steps approach. PloS One. 2017;12(6):e0178949.

Nuttall FQ. Body mass index: obesity, BMI, and health: a critical review. Nutrition Today. 2015;50(3):117.






Original Research Articles