Increased serum resistin in elite endurance athletes with high insulin sensitivity

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Resistin is an adipokine associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes in animal models, but in humans its role remains uncertain. This study was undertaken to test whether serum resistin is related to insulin resistance and markers of low-grade inflammation in elite athletes taken as a model of extreme insulin sensitivity.

Subjects materials and methods

In 23 elite athletes (sprinters, middle-distance and marathon runners) and in 72 sedentary men including lean and obese individuals with NGT, and obese individuals with IGT or new-onset type 2 diabetes, we assessed insulin sensitivity using a whole-body insulin-sensitivity index (WBISI) derived from a 3-h OGTT; energy homeostasis was also assessed by means of indirect calorimetry, along with circulating adipokines and low-grade pro-inflammatory cyto-chemokines.


Professional athletes had increased WBISIs (p<0.001) and lipid oxidation (p<0.03); they also showed higher serum resistin concentrations (p<0.001), although the pro-inflammatory chemokines were not increased in comparison with the other study groups. Resistin was independently associated only with fasting plasma NEFA. Increased resistin was detected in the middle-distance and marathon runners, but not in the sprinters when compared with the lean, young, sedentary individuals.


Serum resistin concentration is increased in elite athletes, providing evidence against the notion that resistin levels reflect insulin resistance in humans, as seen in animal studies. Increased resistin was observed in aerobic-endurance, but not sustained-power athletes and this feature appeared to be independently associated with parameters of fatty acid metabolism.

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