Pancreatic steatosis and its relationship to β-cell dysfunction in humans: Racial and ethnic variations

Lidia S. Szczepaniak, Ronald G. Victor, Ruchi Mathur, Michael D. Nelson, Edward W. Szczepaniak, Nicole Tyer, Ida Chen, Roger H Unger, Richard N. Bergman, Ildiko Lingvay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE - To evaluate racial/ethnic differences in pancreatic triglyceride (TG) levels and their relationship to β-cell dysfunction in humans. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS - We studied black, Hispanic, and white adults who completed three research visits: screening and an oral glucose tolerance test; frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance tests for evaluation of β-cell function and insulin resistance; and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy for evaluation of pancreatic and hepatic TG levels. RESULTS - Pancreatic TG levels were higher in Hispanics and whites than in blacks (P = 0.006). Hepatic TG levels were highest in Hispanics (P = 0.004). Compensatory insulin secretion and disposition index were higher in blacks (P = 0.003 and P = 0.024, respectively). Insulin sensitivity was comparable between Hispanics and blacks and was lower than in whites (P = 0.005). In blacks, compensatory insulin secretion increased steeply with small increments in pancreatic TG levels (R2 = 0.45, slope = 247). In whites, the range of pancreatic TG levels was higher, and the slope was less steep than in blacks (R2 = 0.27, slope = 27). In Hispanics, pancreatic TG levels were similar to those of whites, but compensatory insulin secretion was described by a combination of pancreatic and hepatic TG levels and visceral fat mass (R 2 = 0.32). CONCLUSIONS - In a multiethnic sample of adults with mild obesity and without diabetes, we found striking ethnic differences in the levels of pancreatic TGs and in the relationship between pancreatic TGs and β-cell dysfunction. Our data implicate pancreatic TG content measured by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy as a noninvasive novel biomarker for pancreatic β-cell dysfunction, especially in the Hispanic population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2377-2383
Number of pages7
JournalDiabetes care
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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