Obesity, insulin resistance, and the metabolic syndrome: Determinants of endothelial dysfunction in whites and blacks

A. A. Lteif, K. Han, Kieren J. Mather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

159 Scopus citations


Background - Insulin resistance is strongly associated with obesity and other components of the metabolic syndrome (MS). The relative importance of these components in the determination of endothelial function is unknown. Furthermore, there is conflicting evidence about whether ethnic differences exist in the relative importance of these components in regard to other cardiovascular outcomes. We evaluated the contributions of insulin resistance, obesity, and the other components of the MS to impaired endothelial function. Methods and Results - The relationships of the MS components (as defined according the National Cholesterol Education Program) and insulin resistance (estimated using the homeostasis model) with endothelium-dependent vasodilation were examined in 42 white and 55 black subjects. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation was assessed as the increment in leg blood flow (measured by thermodilution) after exposure to methacholine chloride. Waist circumference, glucose, blood pressure, and insulin resistance distributions did not differ between ethnic groups; blacks in our sample had higher HDL cholesterol (1.31 versus 1.09 mmol/L; P<0.001) and lower triglyceride levels (1.01 versus 1.37 mmol/L; P=0.005) than white subjects. In the absence of the MS, black subjects exhibited reduced endothelium-dependent vasodilation compared with white subjects (P=0.005), and both groups demonstrated significantly worse endothelial function when the MS was present (maximal increase in leg blood flow: blacks: 107±9% MS absent, 53±16% MS present; whites: 163±16% MS absent, 54±18% MS absent; P=0.007, MS absent versus present; P=NS for interaction of ethnicity and MS). Multivariable regression analysis examining relationships of endothelial function with the 5 MS components (analyzed as continuous variables) revealed independent relationships only with waist circumference (P=0.01) and systolic blood pressure (P=0.02). Waist circumference was no longer independently associated after adding insulin resistance to the modeling (P=0.02 for log of homeostasis model index of insulin resistance, P=0.02 for systolic blood pressure). Ethnicity still exerted an independent effect on endothelial function after accounting for the above components (P=0.04 for an additional effect of ethnic status on endothelial function), with an ethnic difference in the effect of insulin resistance on endothelial function (P=0.046 for interaction of ethnicity and log of homeostasis model index of insulin resistance). Conclusions - These findings suggest that insulin resistance and systolic blood pressure are the principal determinants of endothelial dysfunction in the MS and that there are ethnic differences in the relative importance of these factors. These differences may imply different benefits from treatments targeting blood pressure or insulin resistance in different ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 5 2005


  • Endothelium
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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