How to measure hepatic insulin resistance?

Diabetes Metab. 2008 Dec;34(6 Pt 2):664-73. doi: 10.1016/S1262-3636(08)74602-0.


The liver plays a pivotal role in energy metabolism. Under the control of hormones, especially insulin, the liver stores or releases glucose as needed by the body's systems. It is also responsible for an important part of non-esterified fatty-acid and aminoacid metabolism. Assessing hepatic insulin resistance is almost always synonymous with measuring hepatic glucose production (HGP) and calculating indices of hepatic insulin resistance. The most frequently used method to this end is the isotope dilution technique using a tracer. Among tracers, stable isotope-labelled glucose molecules are particularly advantageous over radioactive isotope-labelled glucose and are, therefore, the tracers of choice. The tracer is infused either on its own after an overnight fast to evaluate fasting HGP, or with some among the usual insulin-sensitivity tests to assess HGP suppression by insulin and/or glucose. In a fasting state, HGP is easily calculated whereas, during insulin or glucose infusion, some formula are needed to correct for the non-steady-state condition. The hepatic insulin-resistance index is the product of HGP and the corresponding plasma insulin concentration. Although subject to error, the isotope dilution method nevertheless remains an irreplaceable tool for assessing hepatic insulin resistance in clinical research. From a practical point of view, some easily obtainable indices and clinical or biochemical parameters can serve as surrogates or markers of hepatic insulin resistance in clinical practice. Finally, drugs such as metformin or glitazones can improve hepatic insulin resistance, hence their use in hepatic insulin-resistant states such as type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Child
  • Deuterium
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / physiopathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Radioisotope Dilution Technique


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Deuterium
  • Glucose