Microcirculatory damage of common carotid artery wall in obese and non obese subjects

M Ciccone, A Maiorano, G De Pergola, A Minenna, R Giorgino, P Rizzon
Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation 1999, 21 (3): 365-74
The objective of the present study was to determine whether the intima-media thickness (IMT) is independently related with obesity, and central fat accumulation in healthy subjects. Common carotid artery IMT, parameters of body fat accumulation and distribution (body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio), blood pressure levels, and circulating fasting insulin, glucose, and lipid (cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol) levels were determined in a population of non-diabetic normal weight and obese subjects. Smoking habits (packs-years) were also taken into account. 239 healthy subjects (143 women and 96 men), with age ranging between 18 and 45 years, were enrolled into the study. They were divided indo two groups according to the body mass index (BMI), obese (132 subjects, 77 woman and 55 men, with BMI greater than 27.0) and controls (107 subjects: 66 women and 41 men, with BMI lower than 27.0). Common carotid artery intima-media thickness was measured by B-mode ultrasound imaging. Fasting plasma metabolic parameters (glucose and lipids) and insulin levels were determined by enzymatic and radioimmunological assays, respectively. Insulin sensitivity was estimated by insulin tolerance test (ITT) and the rate constant for plasma glucose disappearance (KITT) during the 3- to 15-min period following the regular insulin injection was taken as a measure of in vivo insulin action. Obese patients showed higher IMT than controls, and IMT was significantly associated with BMI in the whole population (r = 0.316, p < 0.001). Age (r = 0.327, p < 0.001), KITT (r = -0.201, p < 0.01), fasting blood glucose (r = 0.187, p < 0.01), LDL-chol (r = 0.201, p < 0.01), smoking (r = 0.147, p < 0.05), MBP levels (r = 0.154, p < 0.05), cholesterol (r = 0.152, p < 0.05) and HDL-chol (r = -0.159, p < 0.05) were also significantly associated with IMT. Age (r = 0.330, p < 0.05), BMI (r = 0.299, p < 0.01), waist (r = 0.312, p < 0.001), WHR (r = 0.266, p < 0.001) and KITT (r = -0.259, p < 0.01) were the parameters most strongly correlated with IMT in women, and age (r = 0.324, p < 0.001), BMI (r = 0.338, p < 0.001) waist (r = 0.325, p < 0.001) and LDL-chol (r = 0.283, p < 0.01) where the parameters most strongly correlated with IMT in men. When a stepwise multiple regression analysis was performed for the whole population, only age (p < 0.001) and BMI (p < 0.001) maintained a significant positive relationship with IMT. When a stepwise multiple regression analysis was performed separately for men and women, BMI or waist circumference or WHR were alternatively entered into the model; interestingly, only age, BMI and waist were still significantly correlated with IMT, whereas WHR did not maintain a significant correlation with IMT. In conclusion, BMI and waist circumference, but not WHR, are strongly and independently associated with the IMT of common carotid artery. These results suggests that central fat accumulation may accelerate the development of earlier clinically silent stages of atherosclerosis, thus possibly explaining the higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in patients with abdominal obesity.

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