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Environ Health Perspect. 1995 April; 103(Suppl 3): 99–106.
PMCID: PMC1519012
Research Article

Adipose tissue as a medium for epidemiologic exposure assessment.


In the United States, adipose tissue is rarely used as a medium for assessment of prior exposures in epidemiologic studies. Adipose tissue aspirations are in general less invasive and carry less risk than phlebotomy. Tissue samples can be analyzed for a wide number of epidemiologically important exposures. Beyond reflecting long-term energy balance, this tissue offers a relatively stable depot of triglyceride and fat-soluble substances, such as fat-soluble vitamins, and pesticides. As a tissue it represents the greatest reservoir of carotenoids in the body. Halogenated hydrocarbons may be measured in concentrations of hundreds-fold greater than those in blood of the same individuals. The composition of adipose tissue also reflects the long-term dietary intakes of a number of essential fatty acids. The turnover times of all of these substances in adipose tissue remain under-researched. Sampling and storage of adipose tissue, homogeneity of sampling sites, turnover times, and the effects of diet, age, gender, race, hormones, and disease on adipose tissue composition are discussed in this review of current knowledge about adipose tissue stability. Experience in the use of adipose tissue sampling in epidemiologic studies in various countries has shown that it is simple to conduct, requires little training, carries little risk, and does not result in excessive participant refusal.

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