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Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2005 Oct;2(3):105-12.

All obese individuals are not created equal: insulin resistance is the major determinant of cardiovascular disease in overweight/obese individuals.

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  • 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The ability of insulin to mediate glucose disposal varies more than six-fold in an apparently healthy population, and approximately one third of the most insulin-resistant of these individuals are at increased risk to develop cardiovascular disease. Differences in degree of adiposity account for approximately 25% of this variability, and another 25% varies as a function of level of physical fitness. The more overweight/obese the person, the more likely they are to be insulin-resistant and at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but substantial numbers of overweight/obese individuals remain insulin-sensitive, and not all insulin-resistant persons are obese. Of greater clinical relevance is evidence that the metabolic benefit and decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease following weight loss occurs primarily in those overweight/obese individuals that are also insulin-resistant. The relationship between insulin resistance and overall obesity, as assessed by measurement of body mass index, is essentially the same as the relationship between insulin action and abdominal obesity as quantified by determining waist circumference. Finally, there appears to be a comparable relationship between insulin-mediated glucose disposal and amount of visceral fat, subcutaneous fat, and total fat as quantified by various imaging techniques, and the magnitude of these relationships is no greater than that between insulin action and simple measure of body mass index.

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