Asymptomatic atherosclerosis and insulin resistance

Arterioscler Thromb. 1991 Jul-Aug;11(4):1068-76. doi: 10.1161/01.atv.11.4.1068.


High plasma insulin has been shown to be associated with the risk of coronary heart disease in nondiabetic subjects in prospective population studies. Furthermore, insulin resistance measured by the euglycemic glucose clamp technique has been shown to be related to lipid and lipoprotein changes favoring atherosclerosis and to high blood pressure. No study, however, has demonstrated that insulin resistance per se is directly associated with atherosclerosis. With this aim, we studied 30 middle-aged nonobese subjects with asymptomatic atherosclerosis in the femoral or carotid arteries and 13 corresponding control subjects. Fasting blood glucose, insulin, and C-peptide levels were only slightly and nonsignificantly higher in subjects with atherosclerosis than in controls, and during the oral glucose tolerance test 1- and 2-hour glucose, insulin, and C-peptide levels were similar in both groups. During the euglycemic hyperinsulinemic (1,200 pmol/l) clamp studies, subjects with atherosclerosis had a 20% reduced whole-body glucose uptake (58 +/- 2 versus 71 +/- 4 mumol/kg/min, p = 0.004). Glucose oxidation, lipid oxidation, suppression of free fatty acid levels, and potassium disposal were similar in both groups. In contrast, nonoxidative glucose disposal was significantly reduced in patients compared with that in controls (37 +/- 2 versus 50 +/- 4 mumol/kg/min, p = 0.004). When glucose uptakes were matched during the hyperglycemic clamp studies, the rate of nonoxidative glucose uptake was normalized in the patients. These results provide the first direct evidence that asymptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with insulin resistance. This insulin resistance is characterized by reduced whole-body and nonoxidative glucose uptake. In contrast, glucose and lipid oxidation, potassium disposal, and suppression of free fatty acid levels during hyperinsulinemia did not differ between the subjects with and without atherosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / blood*
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Lactates / blood
  • Lactic Acid
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Blood Glucose
  • C-Peptide
  • Insulin
  • Lactates
  • Lactic Acid