Ethnic Differences in Visceral Adipose Tissue and Type 2 Diabetes: Filipino, African-American, and White Women


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Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0607, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail:


Objective: To compare ethnic differences in visceral adipose tissue (VAT), assessed by computed tomography, and type 2 diabetes risk among 55- to 80-year-old Filipino, African-American, and white women without known cardiovascular disease.

Research Methods and Procedures: Subjects were participants in the Rancho Bernardo Study (n = 196), the Filipino Women's Health Study (n = 181), and the Health Assessment Study of African-American Women (n = 193). Glucose and anthropometric measurements were assessed between 1995 and 2002.

Results: African-American women had significantly higher age-adjusted BMI (29.7 kg/m2) and waist girth (88.1 cm) compared with Filipino (BMI, 25.5 kg/m2; waist girth, 81.9 cm) or white (BMI: 26.0 kg/m2; waist girth: 80.7 cm) women. However, VAT was significantly higher among Filipino (69.1 cm3) compared with white (62.3 cm3; p = 0.037) or African-American (57.5 cm3, p < 0.001) women. VAT correlated better with BMI (r = 0.69) and waist (r = 0.77) in whites, compared with Filipino (r = 0.42; r = 0.59) or African-American (r = 0.50; r = 0.56) women. Age-adjusted type 2 diabetes prevalence was significantly higher in Filipinas (32.1%) than in white (5.8%) or African-American (12.1%) women. Filipinas had higher type 2 diabetes risk compared with African Americans [adjusted odds ratio, 2.30; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.09 to 4.86] or whites (adjusted odds ratio, 7.51; 95% CI, 2.51 to 22.5) after adjusting for age, VAT, exercise, education, and alcohol intake.

Discussion: VAT was highest among Filipinas despite similar BMI and waist circumference as whites. BMI and waist circumference were weaker estimates of VAT in Filipino and African-American women than in whites. Type 2 diabetes prevalence was highest among Filipino women at every level of VAT, but VAT did not explain their elevated type 2 diabetes risk.