Two biomarkers have been uncovered by American researchers that could explain why some people with insulin resistance develop severe heart disease.
Insulin resistance heightens the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease, which occurs when the coronary arteries become blocked. This is known as atherosclerosis.
However, some people with insulin resistance do not develop heart disease, while others experience multiple coronary blockages.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine conducted a study on pigs – which have a similar metabolism to humans – to investigate the link between insulin resistance and heart disease.
The animals were fed a high fat, high salt diet for a year. All the pigs became insulin resistant, and developed coronary and aortic atherosclerosis, but only half of the pigs experienced the most severe form of the disease.
A suggestion was made by senior author David Clemmons, a professor of medicine, and of biochemistry and biophysics, who remembered a correlation between atherosclerosis and glycated proteins from a 2005 study in Finland.
High levels of fructosamine and oxidised LDL cholesterol were tested by researchers to detect high levels of glycated proteins. A positive association was found with the pigs that had severe heart disease. The female pigs were also found to be more susceptible to heart disease.
Clemmons concluded: “The underlying causes of this correlation are unknown. But now we have a unique animal model that very much mimics what we see in humans. Our model is a good predictor of diet-induced atherosclerosis in females.”
The researchers suggested their next step could be using their findings to target drugs that can help people with insulin resistance avoid the most severe form of heart disease.
The findings of this study appear in PLOS ONE.

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