1. Abdominal obesity is associated with numerous metabolic complications. Deep abdominal adipose tissue is critical in the association between the level of abdominal obesity and cardiovascular risk factors.
2. Adipose tissue localization was assessed by computed axial tomography (CAT), and its association with body density and anthropometric measurements was investigated in a sample of fifty-one obese women (percentage body fat 45·9 (SD 5·6)) aged 35·7 (SD 5·5) years. The CAT scans were performed at three levels: lower chest, abdomen and mid-thigh.
3. The total adipose tissue volume computed from these three scans was highly correlated with body fat mass (r 0·94, P < 0·001). The proportion of deep abdominal fat as measured by the ratio of deep: total adipose tissue areas at the abdominal level was not significantly correlated with body fat mass, but it was moderately associated with the ratio of waist: hip circumferences (WHR) (r 0·49, P < 0·001). The absolute amount of deep abdominal fat was, however, significantly correlated with body fat mass (r 0·72, P < 0·001).
4. The subscapular (r 0·38) and the abdominal (r 0·38) skinfolds were the only two skinfolds that were significantly associated with the proportion of deep abdominal fat (P < 0·01). These skinfolds were also those which showed the highest correlation with the absolute amount of deep abdominal fat (r 0·65, P < 0·001, for both skinfolds).
5. A three-site CAT-scan procedure can be used for the estimation of body fat mass in premenopausal obese women.
6. In these obese women, there was no significant association between total adiposity and the proportion of deep adipose tissue at the abdominal level.
7. In premenopausal obese women, the absolute amount of deep abdominal fat can be predicted from anthropometric measurements with more accuracy than the relative amount of deep abdominal fat.