• Children;
  • fat distribution;
  • imaging techniques;
  • youth


Childhood obesity is a matter of great concern for public health. Efforts have been made to understand its impact on health through advanced imaging techniques. An increasing number of studies focus on fat distribution and its associations with metabolic risk, in interaction with genetics, environment and ethnicity, in children. The present review is a qualitative synthesis of the existing literature on visceral and subcutaneous abdominal, intrahepatic and intramuscular fat. Our search revealed 80 original articles. Abdominal as well as ectopic fat depots are prevalent already in childhood and contribute to abnormal metabolic parameters, starting early in life. Visceral, hepatic and intramuscular fat seem to be interrelated but their patterns as well as their independent contribution on metabolic risk are not clear. Some ethnic-specific characteristics are also prevalent. These results encourage further research in childhood obesity by using imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. These imaging methods can provide a better understanding of fat distribution and its relationships with metabolic risk, compared to less detailed fat and obesity assessment. However, studies on bigger samples and with a prospective character are warranted.