Dynamics of intrapericardial and extrapericardial fat tissues during long-term, dietary-induced, moderate weight loss

Gal Tsaban, Arik Wolak, Hila Avni-Hassid, Yftach Gepner, Ilan Shelef, Yaakov Henkin, Dan Schwarzfuchs, Noa Cohen, Nitzan Bril, Michal Rein, Dana Serfaty, Shira Kenigsbuch, Lilac Tene, Hila Zelicha, Anat Yaskolka-Meir, Oded Komy, Avital Bilitzky, Yoash Chassidim, Uta Ceglarek, Michael StumvollMatthias Blüher, Joachim Thiery, Dror Dicker, Assaf Rudich, Meir J. Stampfer, Iris Shai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In view of evidence linking pericardial fat accumulation with increased cardiovascular disease risk, strategies to reduce its burden are needed. Data comparing the effects of specific long-term dietary interventions on pericardial fat tissue mobilization are sparse. Objective: We sought to evaluate intrapericardial-fat (IPF) and extrapericardial-fat (EPF) changes during weight-loss interventions by different dietary regimens. Design: During 18 mo of a randomized controlled trial, we compared a Mediterranean/low-carbohydrate (MED/LC) diet plus 28 g walnuts/d with a calorically equal low-fat (LF) diet among randomly assigned participants with moderate abdominal obesity. We performed whole-body MRI and volumetrically quantified IPF and EPF among 80 participants to follow the 18-mo changes. Results: The participants [mean age: 48.6 y; mean body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2); 31.7; 90% men] had baseline IPF and EPF (mean 6 SD) volumes of 172.4 6 53.3 mL and 194.9 6 71.5 mL, respectively. The 18-mo moderate weight loss of 3.7 kg was similar in both groups, but the reduction in waist circumference was higher in the MED/LC group (26.9 6 6.6 cm) than in the LF diet group (22.3 6 6.5 cm; P = 0.01). After 18 mo, the IPF volume had reduced twice as much in the MED/LC group compared with the LF group [237 6 26.2 mL (222% 6 15%) compared with 215.5 6 26.2 mL (28% 6 15%), respectively; P, 0.05, after adjustment for changes in weight or visceral adipose tissue]. The EPF volume had reduced similarly in both groups [241.6 6 30.2 mL (223% 6 16%) in the MED/LC group compared with 237.9 6 28.3 mL (219% 6 14%) in the LF group; P . 0.1]. After controlling for weight loss, IPF and EPF volume reduction paralleled changes in lipid profile but not with improved glycemic profile variables: the IPF relative reduction was associated with a decrease in triglycerides (TGs) (b = 0.090; 95% CI: 0.026, 0.154; P = 0.007) and the ratio of TGs to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (b = 2.689; 95% CI: 0.373, 5.003; P = 0.024), and the EPF relative reduction was associated with an increase in HDL cholesterol (b = 20.452; 95% CI: 20.880, 20.023; P = 0.039) and a decrease in total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol (b = 3.766; 95% CI: 1.092, 6.440; P = 0.007). Conclusions: Moderate but persistent dietary-induced weight loss substantially decreased both IPF and EPF volumes. Reduction of pericardial adipose tissues is independently associated with an improved lipid profile. The Mediterranean diet, rich in unsaturated fats and restricted carbohydrates, is superior to an LF diet in terms of the IPF burden reduction. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01530724.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-995
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging
  • Extrapericardial fat
  • Intrapericardial fat
  • Low-fat diet
  • Mediterranean diet


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