An independent association between hypercholesterolemia and high insulin levels has not consistently emerged from large-scale epidemiologic observations. We selected 39 patients with elevated low-density (LDL) cholesterol levels but normal body weight, blood pressure, and glucose tolerance, and compared them to 36 normocholesterolemic, healthy control subjects accurately matched to the patients for age, gender, body mass index, and mean arterial blood pressure. Fasting serum total cholesterol concentrations and levels of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and apoprotein B were all higher in the patients with hypercholesterolemia than in controls (P < 0.025 or less), whereas high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apoprotein A levels were significantly lower (P < 0.05 or less). Plasma insulin concentrations were elevated in hypercholesterolemic patients vs. controls both in the fasting state (86 +/- 6 vs. 59 +/- 8 pmol/L) and 2 h after a 75-g oral glucose load (412 +/- 16 vs. 276 +/- 18 pmol/L, P < 0.02 for both). Two-hour plasma glucose concentrations were also significantly raised in the patients (7.8 +/- 0.2 mmol/L) compared to controls (6.4 +/- 0.1 mmol/L, P < 0.025). In a multiple regression model including serum triglyceride concentrations, LDL cholesterol was still significantly related to both fasting and 2-h plasma insulin concentrations, contributing approximately 20% to the overall variability of these measures. Thus, in this group of patients with type IIa familial combined hyperlipoproteinemia hypercholesterolemia was associated with hyperinsulinemia even when controlling for other confounders (age, gender, body mass, glucose tolerance, and blood pressure).

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