Risk of coronary heart disease has been related to insulin resistance, but the mechanism for this is incompletely understood. Variables attributed to insulin resistance are associated with low-grade inflammation. A case-control study was performed of 469 male myocardial infarction (MI) survivors aged < 60 years and 575 control subjects recruited from centers in northern and southern Europe. Principal factor analysis was used to explore correlations between insulin resistance and inflammatory variables. Three factors resulted: (a) "Metabolic Syndrome" (insulin/proinsulin/ triglyceride/body mass index [BMI]); (b) "Inflammation" (fibrinogen/C-reactive protein [CRP]/interleukin-6 [IL-6]); and (c) "Blood Pressure" (systolic and diastolic blood pressure). The "Metabolic Syndrome" factor was related to the "Inflammation" factor (largely independently of obesity), the "Blood Pressure" factor, smoking, and south location (all P < or = .0002). There were significant relationships between all 3 factors and case status (P < or = .0002). Markers of low-grade inflammation are strongly related to metabolic syndrome variables independently of obesity. This raises the possibility that links between insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease could, in part, represent common consequences of low-grade inflammation.