Background: Hepatic steatosis is associated with obesity and type II diabetes. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) is a non-invasive method for measurement of tissue fat content, including intrahepatocellular lipids (IHCL) and intramyocellular lipids (IMCL).
Patients and methods: We used 1H MRS and whole body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the relationship between IHCL accumulation, total body adipose tissue (AT) content/distribution, and IMCL content in 11 subjects with biopsy proven hepatic steatosis and 23 normal volunteers.
Results: IHCL signals were detectable in all subjects but were significantly greater in hepatic steatosis (geometric mean (GM) 11.5 (interquartile range (IQR) 7.0–39.0)) than in normal volunteers (GM 2.7 (IQR 0.7–9.3); p = 0.02). In the study group as a whole, IHCL levels were significantly greater in overweight compared with lean subjects (body mass index (BMI) >25 kg/m2 (n = 23): GM 7.7 (IQR 4.0–28.6) v BMI <25 kg/m2 (n = 11): GM 1.3 (IQR 0.3–3.6; p = 0.004)). There was a significant association between IHCL content and indices of overall obesity (expressed as a percentage of body weight) for total body fat (p = 0.001), total subcutaneous AT (p = 0.007), and central obesity (subcutaneous abdominal AT (p = 0.001) and intra-abdominal AT (p = 0.001)), after allowing for sex and age. No correlation between IHCL content and IMCL was observed. A significant correlation was observed between serum alanine aminotransferase and liver fat content (r = 0.57, p = 0.006).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that hepatic steatosis appears to be closely related to body adiposity, especially central obesity. MRS may be a useful method for monitoring IHCL in future interventional studies.