Adipose tissue (AT) inflammation leads to increased free fatty acid (FFA) efflux and ectopic fat deposition, but whether AT dysfunction drives selective fat accumulation in specific sites remains unknown. The aim of the present study was to investigate the correlation between AT dysfunction, hepatic/pancreatic fat fraction (HFF, PFF) and the associated metabolic phenotype in patients with Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Sixty-five consecutive T2D patients were recruited at the Diabetes Centre of Sapienza University, Rome, Italy. The study population underwent clinical examination and blood sampling for routine biochemistry and calculation of insulin secretion [homoeostasis model assessment of insulin secretion (HOMA-β%)] and insulin-resistance [homoeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and adipose tissue insulin resistance (ADIPO-IR)] indexes. Subcutaneous (SAT) and visceral (VAT) AT area, HFF and PFF were determined by magnetic resonance. Some 55.4% of T2D patients had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); they were significantly younger and more insulin-resistant than non-NAFLD subjects. ADIPO-IR was the main determinant of HFF independently of age, sex, HOMA-IR, VAT, SAT and predicted severe NAFLD with the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC)=0.796 (95% confidence interval: 0.65–0.94, P=0.001). PFF was independently associated with increased total adiposity but did not correlate with AT dysfunction, insulin resistance and secretion or NAFLD. The ADIPO-IR index was capable of predicting NAFLD independently of all confounders, whereas it did not seem to be related to intrapancreatic fat deposition; unlike HFF, higher PFF was not associated with relevant alterations in the metabolic profile. In conclusion, the presence and severity of AT dysfunction may drive ectopic fat accumulation towards specific targets, such as VAT and liver, therefore evaluation of AT dysfunction may contribute to the identification of different risk profiles among T2D patients.

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