Sex differences in the relationships between body composition, fat distribution, and mitochondrial energy metabolism: a pilot study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Abstract Background Adiposity and mitochondrial dysfunction are related factors contributing to metabolic disease development. This pilot study examined whether in vivo and ex vivo indices of mitochondrial metabolism were differentially associated with body composition in males and females. Methods Thirty-four participants including 19 females (mean 27 yr) and 15 males (mean 29 yr) had body composition assessed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Monocyte reserve capacity and maximal oxygen consumption rate (OCR) were determined ex vivo using extracellular flux analysis. In vivo quadriceps mitochondrial function was measured using 31P-MR spectroscopy based on post-exercise recovery kinetics (τPCr). The homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) was calculated from fasting glucose and insulin levels. Variables were log-transformed, and Pearson correlations and partial correlations were used for analyses. Results Mitochondrial metabolism was similar between sexes (p > 0.05). In males only, higher fat mass percent (FM%) was correlated with lower reserve capacity (r = − 0.73; p = 0.002) and reduced muscle mitochondrial function (r = 0.58, p = 0.02). Thigh subcutaneous adipose tissue was inversely related to reserve capacity in males (r = − 0.75, p = 0.001), but in females was correlated to higher maximal OCR (r = 0.48, p = 0.046), independent of FM. In females, lean mass was related to greater reserve capacity (r = 0.47, p = 0.04). In all participants, insulin (r = 0.35; p = 0.04) and HOMA-IR (r = 0.34; p = 0.05) were associated with a higher τPCr. Conclusions These novel findings demonstrate distinct sex-dependent associations between monocyte and skeletal muscle mitochondrial metabolism with body composition. With further study, increased understanding of these relationships may inform sex-specific interventions to improve mitochondrial function and metabolic health.


  • Bellissimo, Moriah P
  • Fleischer, Candace C
  • Reiter, David A
  • Goss, Amy M
  • Zhou, Lei
  • Smith, Matthew Ryan
  • Kohlmeier, Jacob
  • Tirouvanziam, Rabindra
  • Tran, Phong H
  • Hao, Li
  • Crain, Benjamin H
  • Wells, Greg
  • Jones, Dean P
  • Ziegler, Thomas R
  • Alvarez, Jessica A

publication date

  • December 2022