Background: Insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia and abnormal nonesterified fatty acid (NEFA) metabolism are features of the 'metabolic syndrome', but the mechanisms of these relationships are uncertain.
Materials and methods: We studied associations between insulin resistance and lipoprotein concentrations by retrospective analysis of euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp data from 867 normoglycaemic subjects in 21 European centres. Data on NEFA concentrations were available in a subgroup of 541 subjects from 9 clinical centres. These subjects' characteristics do not vary significantly from those of the whole cohort.
Results: After adjustment for the effects of age, sex, obesity and intercentre variability, regression analysis showed relationships between triglycerides and markers of insulin sensitivity. There were significant correlations between triglycerides and fasting plasma glucose (P < 0.0001), fasting plasma insulin (P < 0.0001) and mean glucose infusion rate at steady state (M-value, P < 0.0001). Indices of insulin resistance were related to NEFA concentrations. Fasting NEFA were negatively correlated with the M-value (P < 0.0001). Non-esterified fatty acids at steady state were positively correlated with fasting markers of insulin resistance: fasting plasma glucose (P < 0.05), fasting plasma insulin (P < 0.005) and negatively correlated with the M-value (P < 0.0005). There were relationships between fasting concentrations of plasma lipids and of NEFAs. Non-esterified fatty acids at steady state correlated with fasting triglycerides (P < 0.0001), but not with any of the other plasma lipoprotein concentrations. The associations of fasting triglycerides with the M-value and with NEFAs at steady state were independent of each other. All these associations were independent of obesity and geographical location
Conclusion: The results in this large cohort of healthy European subjects suggest that triglyceride concentrations depend upon both insulin's gluco-regulation (estimated by glucose uptake) and antilipolytic insulin action (measured by NEFA levels) during an euglycaemic clamp.