Ethnic differences in beta cell adaptation to insulin resistance in obese children and adolescents

Diabetologia. 2006 Mar;49(3):571-9. doi: 10.1007/s00125-005-0109-z. Epub 2006 Feb 3.


Aims/hypothesis: The prevalence of altered glucose metabolism in obese children and adolescents is growing at a significant rate, especially in ethnic minorities. It is not clear whether young people of different ethnic backgrounds differ in their adaptive mechanisms to obesity-related insulin resistance. The aim of this study was to evaluate the early insulin response and insulin clearance in response to an oral glucose load in obese children and adolescents.

Methods: Seven hundred and nine obese children and adolescents underwent an OGTT. Indices of the early insulin response and insulin clearance were compared in participants of White European, African American and Hispanic origin.

Results: Participants of the three ethnic groups demonstrated similar mechanisms of adaptation to increasing insulin resistance, but with different magnitudes. African American subjects had a greater early insulin response and decreased insulin clearance than their White European and Hispanic counterparts. This happened regardless of whether the cohort was divided by glucose tolerance level or by level of insulin sensitivity. IGT across ethnic groups was characterised by a marked decline in the acute insulin response in the context of severe insulin resistance and very low insulin clearance.

Conclusions/interpretation: In obese children and adolescents, mechanisms of adaptation to obesity related to insulin resistance are similar across ethnic groups. The greater early insulin response needed to maintain glucose tolerance in young people of ethnic minorities may partially explain their greater tendency to develop type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance / ethnology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Insulin