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ObjectiveCell diameter, area, and volume are established quantitative measures of adipocyte size. However, these different adipocyte sizing parameters have not yet been directly compared regarding their distributions. Therefore, the study aimed to investigate how these adipocyte size measures differ in their distribution and assessed their correlation with anthropometry and laboratory chemistry. In addition, we were interested to investigate the relationship between fat cell size and adipocyte mitochondrial respiratory chain capacity.MethodsSubcutaneous and visceral histology-based adipocyte size estimates from 188 individuals were analyzed by applying a panel of parameters to describe the underlying cell population. Histology-based adipocyte diameter distributions were compared with adipocyte diameter distributions from collagenase digestion. Associations of mean adipocyte size with body mass index (BMI), glucose, HbA1C, blood lipids as well as mature adipocyte mitochondrial respiration were investigated.ResultsAll adipocyte area estimates derived from adipose tissue histology were not normally distributed, but rather characterized by positive skewness. The shape of the size distribution depends on the adipocyte sizing parameter and on the method used to determine adipocyte size. Despite different distribution shapes histology-derived adipocyte area, diameter, volume, and surface area consistently showed positive correlations with BMI. Furthermore, associations between adipocyte sizing parameters and glucose, HbA1C, or HDL specifically in the visceral adipose depot were revealed. Increasing subcutaneous adipocyte diameter was negatively correlated with adipocyte mitochondrial respiration.ConclusionsDespite different underlying size distributions, the correlation with obesity-related traits was consistent across adipocyte sizing parameters. Decreased mitochondrial respiratory capacity with increasing subcutaneous adipocyte diameter could display a novel link between adipocyte hypertrophy and adipose tissue function.

Original publication




Journal article


International journal of obesity (2005)

Publication Date





2108 - 2117


Technical University of Munich, Else Kröner-Fresenius-Center for Nutritional Medicine, Chair of Nutritional Medicine, School of Life Sciences, Gregor-Mendel-Straße 2, 85354, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.