FFAs: do they play a role in vascular disease in the insulin resistance syndrome?

Curr Diab Rep. 2005 Feb;5(1):30-5. doi: 10.1007/s11892-005-0064-6.


The insulin resistance syndrome, otherwise known as the metabolic syndrome, describes a cluster of cardiovascular and metabolic abnormalities, which are strongly associated with overweight and obesity. The importance of the syndrome is due to its increased rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Insulin resistance is also characterized by elevated free fatty acid (FFA) levels. In otherwise healthy human subjects, elevation of FFA impairs endothelial function. This appears to be largely the result of blunting of nitric oxide-dependent tone, most likely at the level of the endothelial isoform of nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Some of the potential mediatory mechanisms include oxidative stress, proinflammatory cytokines, C-reactive protein, or endogenous inhibitors of eNOS. Regardless of the mechanism(s) that mediates the effects of increased FFA on the vasculature, impaired vascular function is likely to account, at least in part, for the increase in cardiovascular mortality in subjects with the insulin resistance syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / physiology
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Vascular Diseases / blood*
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology


  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III