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

103 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
Pages (from-to)2377-2383
Number of pages7
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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