Endothelial dysfunction in obesity and insulin resistance: a road to diabetes and heart disease

Obes Res. 2003 Nov;11(11):1278-89. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.174.


Obesity, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction closely coexist throughout the natural history of type 2 diabetes. They all can be identified not only in people with type 2 diabetes, but also in various groups at risk for the disease, such as individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, family history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, prior gestational diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Whereas their evident association cannot fully establish a cause-effect relationship, fascinating mechanisms that bring them closer together than ever before are rapidly emerging. Central or abdominal obesity leads to insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction through fat-derived metabolic products, hormones, and cytokines. Insulin resistance leads to endothelial dysfunction through the frequent association with traditional cardiovascular risk factors and through some more direct novel mechanisms. Some specific and shared insulin signaling abnormalities in muscle, fat, and endothelial cells, as well as some new genetic and nontraditional factors, may contribute to this interesting association. Some recent clinical studies demonstrate that nonpharmacological and pharmacological strategies targeting obesity and/or insulin resistance ameliorate endothelial function and low-grade inflammation. All these findings have added a new dimension to the association of obesity, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction that may become a key target in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Weight Loss