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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 favorable adiposity alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous fat and lower ectopic fat. We combined MRI data with genome-wide association studies of body fat percentage (%) and metabolic traits. We report 14 alleles, including 7 newly characterized alleles, associated with higher adiposity but a favorable metabolic profile. Consistent with previous studies, individuals carrying more favorable 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 a 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, whereas the allele in ANKRD55 was paradoxically associated with higher visceral fat but lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Most identified favorable adiposity alleles are associated with higher subcutaneous and lower liver fat, a mechanism consistent with the beneficial effects of storing excess triglycerides in metabolically low-risk depots.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





207 - 219


Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter, U.K.


Humans, Heart Diseases, Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Obesity, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Waist-Hip Ratio, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Intra-Abdominal Fat, Adiposity, Genome-Wide Association Study