Background: Plasma levels of liver transaminases, including alanine aminotransferase (ALT), are elevated in most cases of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Elevated ALT levels are associated with insulin resistance, and subjects with NAFLD have features of the metabolic syndrome that confer high-risk cardiovascular disease. Alanine aminotransferase predicts the development of type 2 diabetes (DM2) in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. However, the role of elevated ALT levels in subjects with overt DM2 has yet not been explored.
Materials and methods: In a cross-sectional study, 64 normotriglyceridaemic subjects with DM2 were studied with regard to the relation between liver transaminases with whole-body insulin sensitivity, measured with the euglycaemic hyperinsulinaemic clamp and with brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) as a marker of endothelial dysfunction.
Results: On average, patients were normotriglyceridaemic (plasma triglycerides 1.3 +/- 0.4 mmol L-1) and had good glycaemic control (HbA1c 6.2 +/- 0.8%). The mean ALT level was 15.0 +/- 7.5 U L-1, and the mean aspartate aminotransferase concentration equalled 10.6 +/- 2.6 U L-1. Alanine aminotransferase levels were negatively associated with whole-body insulin sensitivity as well as with FMD (both P = 0.03, in multivariate analyses; regression coefficients beta [95%CI]: -0.76 [-1.4 to -0.08] and -0.31 [-0.58 to -0.03] respectively).
Conclusions: In metabolically well-controlled patients with DM2, ALT levels are related to decreased insulin-sensitivity and an impaired conduit vessel vascular function.