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Genome-Wide and Abdominal MRI-Imaging Data Provides Evidence that a Genetically Determined Favourable Adiposity Phenotype is Characterized by Lower Ectopic Liver Fat and Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Yingjie Ji
  • Andrianos M. Yiorkas
  • Francesca Frau
  • Dennis Mook-kanamori
  • Harald Staiger
  • E. Louise Thomas
  • Naeimeh Atabaki-pasdar
  • Jessica Tyrrell
  • Samuel E. Jones
  • Robin N. Beaumont
  • Andrew R. Wood
  • Marcus A. Tuke
  • Katherine S. Ruth
  • Anubha Mahajan
  • Anna Murray
  • Rachel M. Freathy
  • Michael N. Weedon
  • Andrew T. Hattersley
  • Jürgen Machann
  • Hans-ulrich Häring
  • Paul Franks
  • Renée De Mutsert
  • Norbert Stefan
  • Timothy M. Frayling
  • Karla V. Allebrandt
  • Jimmy D. Bell
  • Alexandra I. Blakemore
  • Hanieh Yaghootkar

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)db180708
Number of pages96
Early online date23 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Oct 2018


Recent genetic studies have identified alleles associated with opposite effects on adiposity and risk of type 2 diabetes. We aimed to identify more of these variants and test the hypothesis that such “favourable adiposity” alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous fat and lower ectopic fat. We combined magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data with genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of body fat % and metabolic traits. We report 14 alleles, including 7 newly characterized alleles, associated with higher adiposity, but a favourable metabolic profile. Consistent with previous studies, individuals carrying more “favourable adiposity” alleles had higher body fat % and higher BMI, but lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. These individuals also had higher subcutaneous fat, but lower liver fat and lower visceral-to-subcutaneous adipose tissue ratio. Individual alleles associated with higher body fat % but lower liver fat and lower risk of type 2 diabetes included those in PPARG, GRB14 and IRS1, whilst the allele in ANKRD55 was paradoxically associated with higher visceral fat but lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Most identified “favourable adiposity” alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous and lower liver fat, a mechanism consistent with the beneficial effects of storing excess triglyceride in metabolically low risk depots.

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