Appropriate blood vessel function is important to cardiovascular health. Adipose tissue plays an important role in metabolic homoeostasis, and subcutaneous abdominal ATBF (adipose tissue blood flow) is responsive to nutritional stimuli. This response is impaired in obesity, suggesting parallels with endothelial function. In the present study, we assessed whether regulation of ATBF is related to the regulation of endothelial function, assessed by FMD (flow-mediated vasodilatation) of the brachial artery. Impaired FMD is a marker of atherosclerotic risk, so we also assessed relationships between ATBF and a marker of atherosclerosis, common carotid artery IMT (intima-media thickness). As ATBF is responsive to sympatho-adrenal stimuli, we also investigated relationships with HRV (heart rate variability). A total of 79 healthy volunteers (44 female) were studied after fasting and after ingestion of 75 g of glucose. FMD, fasting ATBF and the responsiveness of ATBF to glucose were all negatively related to BMI (body mass index), confirming the adverse cardiovascular effects of adiposity. FMD was related to fasting ATBF (rs=0.32, P=0.008) and, at least in males, this relationship was independent of BMI (P=0.02). Common carotid artery IMT, measured in a subset of participants, was negatively related to fasting ATBF [rs=−0.51, P=0.02 (n=20)]. On the other hand, ATBF responsiveness to glucose had no relationship with either FMD or IMT. In multiple regression models, both fasting and stimulated ATBF had relationships with HRV. In conclusion, our results show that the regulation of ATBF has features in common with endothelial function, but also relationships with autonomic cardiovascular control as reflected in HRV.

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