Plasma sex hormone-binding globulin rather than corticosteroid-binding globulin is a marker of insulin resistance in obese adult males

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Plasma levels of corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) may be regulated by insulin. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that these steroid-binding proteins are markers of insulin resistance and obesity in adult patients with the metabolic syndrome.


Fasting blood samples were obtained from 108 male and 88 female overweight adult patients who had varying degrees of dyslipidaemia, adiposity and insulin resistance. We measured plasma levels of SHBG and CBG and investigated their correlation with insulin resistance [homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) % sensitivity] and anthropometric markers of adiposity.


In male patients, plasma SHBG correlated positively with HOMA (% sensitivity) and negatively with anthropometric measurements, including body mass index, waist circumference (cm) and percentage body fat. There was no correlation with CBG and any other parameter in the male patients. The female patients were treated as two groups, those not using oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (n = 67) and those taking steroid medications (n = 21). Female patients using steroid medications had significantly higher SHBG levels but neither group showed any correlation between SHBG, insulin resistance and adiposity. Correlation studies of CBG with other parameters in the female subgroups did not reach statistical significance.


We conclude that plasma SHBG is another surrogate marker for insulin resistance in obese males but not in obese females. It also appears that plasma CBG is not a useful marker of insulin resistance in patients with the metabolic syndrome.

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