Obesity-related conditions including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are leading causes of preventable death. Recent evidence suggests that altered myocellular lipid metabolism in obesity may lead to increased insulin resistance (IR) that predisposes to these disorders. To test the hypothesis that muscles rich in type I vs. type II muscle fibers would exhibit similar changes in intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) and extramyocellular lipid (EMCL) content in obesity, we utilized a new four-dimensional multi echo echo-planar correlated spectroscopic imaging technique that allows separate determination of IMCL and EMCL content in individual calf muscles in obese vs. normal healthy human subjects. Calf muscles were scanned in 32 obese and 11 healthy subjects using a 3T MRI/MRS scanner, and IR in the obese subjects was documented by glucose tolerance testing. In obese subjects, elevation of both IMCL and EMCL content was observed in the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles (with mixed type I and II fiber content), while a significant increase in only IMCL content (+48%, p < 0.001) was observed in the soleus muscle (predominantly type I fibers). These observations indicate unexpected differences in changes in myolipid metabolism in type I vs. type II rich muscle regions in obesity, perhaps related to IR, and warrant further investigation.
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