Pancreatic Steatosis and Its Relationship to β-Cell Dysfunction in Humans

Racial and Ethnic Variations

  1. Ildiko Lingvay, MD2
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  2. 2Department of Internal medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas
  1. Corresponding author: Lidia S. Szczepaniak, lidia.szczepaniak{at}


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 ( R2 = 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.

  • Received April 12, 2012.
  • Accepted May 31, 2012.

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This Article

  1. Diabetes Care
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