Preserved insulin sensitivity predicts metabolically healthy obese phenotype in children and adolescents

Rade Vukovic, Tatjana Milenkovic, Katarina Mitrovic, Sladjana Todorovic, Ljiljana Plavsic, Ana Vukovic, Dragan Zdravkovic
European Journal of Pediatrics 2015, 174 (12): 1649-55

UNLABELLED: Available data on metabolically healthy obese (MHO) phenotype in children suggest that gender, puberty, waist circumference, insulin sensitivity, and other laboratory predictors have a role in distinguishing these children from metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO) youth. The goal of this study was to identify predictors of MHO phenotype and to analyze glucose and insulin metabolism during oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in MHO children. OGTT was performed in 244 obese children and adolescents aged 4.6-18.9 years. Subjects were classified as MHO in case of no fulfilled criterion of metabolic syndrome except anthropometry or as MUO (≥2 fulfilled criteria). Among the subjects, 21.7 % had MHO phenotype, and they were more likely to be female, younger, and in earlier stages of pubertal development, with lower degree of abdominal obesity. Insulin resistance was the only independent laboratory predictor of MUO phenotype (OR 1.59, CI 1.13-2.25), with 82 % sensitivity and 60 % specificity for diagnosing MUO using HOMA-IR cutoff point of ≥2.85. Although no significant differences were observed in glucose regulation, MUO children had higher insulin demand throughout OGTT, with 1.53 times higher total insulin secretion.

CONCLUSION: Further research is needed to investigate the possibility of targeted treatment of insulin resistance to minimize pubertal cross-over to MUO in obese children.

WHAT IS KNOWN: • Substantial proportion of the obese youth (21-68 %) displays a metabolically healthy (MHO) phenotype. • Gender, puberty, waist circumference, insulin sensitivity, and lower levels of uric acid and transaminases have a possible role in distinguishing MHO from metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO) children.

WHAT IS NEW: • Insulin resistance was found to be the only significant laboratory predictor of MUO when adjusted for gender, puberty, and the degree of abdominal obesity. • Besides basal insulin resistance, MUO children were found to have a significantly higher insulin secretion throughout OGTT in order to maintain glucose homeostasis.

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