Compartmental Neck Fat Accumulation, CV Risk & Metabolic Syndrome

Research Paper Title

Compartmental Neck Fat Accumulation and its Relationship to Cardiovascular Risk and Metabolic Syndrome.


Neck circumference is a predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. However, detailed assessment of neck fat has not been explored, and the contribution from individual neck fat compartments to CVD risk is unknown.


The objective was to measure neck adipose tissue (NAT) compartments and examine relations with CVD risk markers, with the hypothesis that neck adipose tissue (NAT) accumulation preferentially involves specific compartments that contribute differently to metabolic risk.


The researchers retrospectively studied 303 subjects with successfully treated malignancies or benign etiologies [151 women, 152 men; mean (±SD) age: 55 ± 17 y; mean body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2): 28 ± 6] who underwent whole-body positron emission tomography/computed tomography. NAT was measured at the level of the C5 vertebral body, subdivided into posterior (NATpost), subcutaneous (NATsc), and perivertebral (NATperivert) compartments. Data on CVD risk factors (BMI, abdominal circumference, visceral and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue, blood pressure, serum lipids, and fasting plasma glucose) were collected. The researchers compared NAT compartments across lean, overweight, and obese groups and performed multivariate regression models correlating NAT with CVD risk factors. Receiver operating characteristic curve and prevalence ratio analyses were performed to examine the association of NAT compartments with metabolic syndrome.


NATpost and NATsc were more consistently associated with cardiometabolic risk, especially in women, correlating with visceral adipose tissue (P < 0.0001) and triglycerides (P < 0.001) and a nearly 1.5-fold increase in the prevalence ratio for metabolic syndrome after adjustment for age and BMI (P < 0.05). NATsc was most abundant in women, whereas intermuscular compartments (NATpost and NATperivert) were higher in men. In both sexes, NATpost and NATperivert showed the largest increment between lean and obese subjects.


Neck fat compartments expand differently with increasing adiposity, correlate with CVD risk factors, and are associated with metabolic syndrome, most notably NATpost and NATsc in women. Although neck circumference remains an important method to assess metabolic risk, cross-sectional NAT assessment provides further insight into fat accumulation in the neck.


Torriani, M., Gill, C.M., Daley, S., Oliveira, A.L., Azevedo, D.C. & Bredella, M.A. (2014) Compartmental Neck Fat Accumulation and its Relationship to Cardiovascular Risk and Metabolic Syndrome. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.3945/​ajcn.114.088450.


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