Aims/hypothesis: Insulin resistance (IR) is associated with obesity, but can also develop in individuals with normal body weight. We employed comprehensive profiling methods to identify metabolic events associated with IR, while controlling for obesity.
Methods: We selected 263 non-obese (BMI approximately 24 kg/m2) Asian-Indian and Chinese men from a large cross-sectional study carried out in Singapore. Individuals taking medication for diabetes or hyperlipidaemia were excluded. Participants were separated into lower and upper tertiles of IR based on HOMA indices of < or =1.06 or > or =1.93, respectively. MS-based metabolic profiling of acylcarnitines, amino acids and organic acids was combined with hormonal and cytokine profiling in all participants.
Results: After controlling for BMI, commonly accepted risk factors for IR, including circulating fatty acids and inflammatory cytokines, did not discriminate the upper and lower quartiles of insulin sensitivity in either Asian- Indian or Chinese men. Instead, IR was correlated with increased levels of alanine, proline, valine, leucine/isoleucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, glutamate/glutamine and ornithine, and a cluster of branched-chain and related amino acids identified by principal components analysis. These changes were not due to increased protein intake by individuals in the upper quartile of IR. Increased abdominal adiposity and leptin, and decreased adiponectin and IGF-binding protein 1 were also correlated with IR.
Conclusions/interpretation: These findings demonstrate that perturbations in amino acid homeostasis, but not inflammatory markers or NEFAs, are associated with IR in individuals of relatively low body mass.