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Metabolism. 2001 Jul;50(7):795-800.

Relationship between insulin resistance, weight loss, and coronary heart disease risk in healthy, obese women.

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Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford, CA, USA.


Several popular books have recently been published stating that being insulin-resistant favors weight gain and/or prevents weight loss. Because this view seems to have gained widespread support in the general population, we thought it important to perform the current study testing the hypothesis that differences in insulin-mediated glucose disposal do not affect weight loss in response to calorie-restricted diets. For this purpose, we studied the change in weight and risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) in healthy women volunteers, defined as being obese on the basis of a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.0 kg/m(2). The insulin suppression test was used to stratify obese women at baseline into insulin-resistant and insulin-sensitive subgroups on the basis of their steady-state plasma glucose (SSPG) concentration at the end of a 180-minute infusion of octreotide, exogenous insulin, and glucose. They were then instructed on a calorie-restricted diet plus sibutraminine (15 mg/day) for a total period of 4 months. Baseline measurements also included determination of fasting lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, and hourly (8 AM to 4 PM) determinations of plasma glucose and insulin concentrations before and after breakfast and lunch. Twenty-four women completed the 4-month period of calorie restriction: 13 classified as insulin-resistant (SSPG = 219 +/- 7 mg/dL) and 11 as insulin-sensitive (SSPG = 69 +/- 6 mg/dL). The insulin-resistant group also had higher (P =.03) plasma triglyceride (TG) concentrations and a higher ratio of total to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentration (P =.02) at baseline. Both groups lost a significant amount of weight during the study, and there was no difference between the weight loss in the insulin-resistant (8.6 +/- 1.3 kg) and insulin-sensitive (7.9 +/- 1.4 kg) groups. Weight loss in the insulin-resistant group was also associated with a significant decrease in SSPG concentration (219 +/- 7 to 144 +/- 14 mg/dL), associated with significantly lower fasting TG concentrations (P <.001) and day-long concentrations of plasma glucose and insulin (P <.005). None of these variables changed in the insulin-sensitive group. These results indicate that: (1) CHD risk factors in obese women vary as a function of being insulin-resistant or insulin-sensitive; (2) dramatic variations in insulin-mediated glucose disposal do not modulate weight loss in response to calorie-restricted diets, and (3) weight loss is effective in reducing CHD risk in insulin-resistant, obese women. Given these data, it seems obvious that attempts to reduce CHD risk factors by weight loss should focus on obese individuals who are also insulin-resistant.

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