Aims/hypothesis: Increased arterial stiffness is a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular events in adults with obesity-related insulin resistance (IR) or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Adolescents with type 2 diabetes have stiffer vessels. Whether stiffness is increased in obesity/IR in youth is not known. We sought to determine if IR was a determinant of arterial stiffness in youth, independent of obesity and cardiovascular risk factors.
Methods: We measured cardiovascular risk factors, IR, adipocytokines and arterial stiffness (brachial artery distensibility [BrachD], pulse wave velocity [PWV]) and wave reflection (augmentation index [AIx]) in 343 adolescents and young adults without type 2 diabetes (15-28 years old, 47% male, 48% non-white). Individuals <85th percentile of BMI were classified as lean (n = 232). Obese individuals were grouped by HOMA index as not insulin resistant (n = 46) or insulin resistant (n = 65) by the 90th percentile for HOMA for lean. Mean differences were evaluated by ANOVA. Multivariate models evaluated whether HOMA was an independent determinant of arterial stiffness.
Results: Risk factors deteriorated from lean to obese to obese/insulin resistant (all p ≤ 0.017). Higher AIx, lower BrachD and higher PWV indicated increased arterial stiffness in obese and obese/insulin-resistant participants. HOMA was not an independent determinant. Age, sex, BMI and BP were the most consistent determinants, with HDL-cholesterol playing a role for BrachD and leptin for PWV (AIx R²= 0.34; BrachD R² = 0.37; PWV R² = 0.40; all p ≤ 0.02).
Conclusions/interpretation: Although IR is associated with increased arterial stiffness, traditional cardiovascular risk factors, especially obesity and BP, are the major determinants of arterial stiffness in healthy young people.