Effects of weight gain and weight loss on regional fat distribution

Prachi Singh, Virend K. Somers, Abel Romero-Corral, Fatima H. Sert-Kuniyoshi, Snigdha Pusalavidyasagar, Diane E. Davison, Michael D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Normal-weight adults gain lower-body fat via adipocyte hyperplasia and upper-body subcutaneous (UBSQ) fat via adipocyte hypertrophy. Objectives: We investigated whether regional fat loss mirrors fat gain and whether the loss of lower-body fat is attributed to decreased adipocyte number or size. Design: We assessed UBSQ, lower-body, and visceral fat gains and losses in response to overfeeding and underfeeding in 23 normalweight adults (15 men) by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and abdominal computed tomography scans. Participants gained ~5% of weight in 8 wk and lost ~80% of gained fat in 8 wk. We measured abdominal subcutaneous and femoral adipocyte sizes and numbers after weight gain and loss. Results: Volunteers gained 3.1 ± 2.1 (mean 6 SD) kg body fat with overfeeding and lost 2.4 ± 1.7 kg body fat with underfeeding. Although UBSQ and visceral fat gains were completely reversed after 8 wk of underfeeding, lower-body fat had not yet returned to baseline values. Abdominal and femoral adipocyte sizes, but not numbers, decreased with weight loss. Decreases in abdominal adipocyte size and UBSQ fat mass were correlated (r = 0.76, P = 0.001), as were decreases in femoral adipocyte size and lower-body fat (r = 0.49, P = 0.05). Conclusions: UBSQ and visceral fat increase and decrease proportionately with a short-term weight gain and loss, whereas a gain of lower-body fat does not relate to the loss of lower-body fat. The loss of lower-body fat is attributed to a reduced fat cell size, but not number, which may result in long-term increases in fat cell numbers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-233
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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