Marked resistance of the ability of insulin to decrease arterial stiffness characterizes human obesity

Jukka Westerbacka, Satu Vehkavaara, Robert Bergholm, Ian Wilkinson, John Cockcroft, Hannele Yki-Järvinen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


We tested the hypothesis that insulin has effects on large artery stiffness in addition to its slow vasodilatory effect on resistance vessels in skeletal muscle, and whether such an effect might be altered in obesity. Eight nonobese (aged 25 ± 1 years, BMI 22.7 ± 0.4 kg/m 2) and eight obese (aged 27 ± 2 years, BMI 30.6 ± 0.9 kg/m 2) men were studied under normoglycemic-hyperinsulinemic (sequential 2-h insulin infusions of 1 [step 1] and 2 [step 2] mU · kg -1 · min -1) conditions, and another seven men participated in a saline control study. Central aortic pressure waves were synthesized from those recorded in the periphery using applanation tonometry and a validated reverse transfer function every 30 min. This allowed determination of augmentation (the pressure difference between early and late systolic pressure peaks) and the augmentation index (augmentation divided by pulse pressure), a measure of arterial stiffness. Whole-body glucose uptake was reduced by 48 (step 1) and 41% (step 2) (P < 0.01) in the obese subjects versus the nonobese subjects. Basal forearm blood flow averaged 2.5 ± 0.2 and 2.6 ± 0.2 ml · dl -1 · min -1 in the obese and nonobese subjects, respectively (NS). Insulin induced a significant increase in forearm blood flow after 2.5 h (3.6 ± 0.4 ml · dl -1 · min -1, P < 0.05 vs. basal) in the nonobese subjects and after 4 h in the obese subjects (3.2 ± 0.2, P < 0.05). In contrast to these slow changes in peripheral blood flow, augmentation and the augmentation index decreased significantly in the nonobese subjects after 1 h (-3.0 ± 1.6 mmHg and -10.0 ± 5.4%, respectively, P < 0.001 vs. basal), but remained unchanged until 3 h in the obese subjects. Percent fat (r = 0.86, P < 0.0001) and whole-body glucose uptake (r = -0.72, P < 0.01) correlated with the change in the augmentation index by insulin. These data demonstrate temporal dissociation in insulin's vascular actions. Insulin's effect to decrease arterial stiffness in nonobese subjects (a decrease in wave reflection) is observed under physiological conditions and precedes a slow vasodilatory effect in the periphery. In the obese subjects, insulin's normal effect to decrease central wave reflection is severely blunted. The degree of impairment in this novel vascular action of insulin is closely correlated with the degree of obesity and insulin action on glucose uptake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-827
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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