, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 149-157
Date: 02 Dec 2005

Pioglitazone increases non-esterified fatty acid clearance in upper body obesity



Plasma NEFA concentrations are largely determined by adipose tissue lipolysis. Insulin suppression of lipolysis is commonly impaired with insulin resistance and improves with thiazolidinedione treatment of type 2 diabetes. The present studies were designed to assess the effects of thiazolidinedione on NEFA (oleate) metabolism that are independent of improved glycaemic control.

Materials and methods

We measured plasma oleate concentration and flux ([3H]oleate), glucose kinetics ([6-2H2]glucose) and substrate oxidation (indirect calorimetry) before and after pioglitazone (30 mg/day for ∼20 weeks) in 20 non-diabetic adults with upper body obesity. To assess the effects of improved insulin sensitivity per se we performed the same measurements in a matched group of volunteers treated with diet/exercise. Half of the two groups underwent these measurements during a hyperinsulinaemic–euglycaemic clamp, and the other half had their measurements taken during a (control) saline infusion before and after the intervention.


Both interventions increased insulin-stimulated glucose disposal and reduced plasma oleate concentrations during the insulin clamp. After diet/exercise, oleate flux decreased (p=0.03) during the insulin clamp and oleate clearance remained unchanged (p=0.55), whereas in the pioglitazone group, oleate flux during the clamp was unchanged (p=0.97) and oleate clearance increased (p=0.003). Oleate clearance in the saline control condition was increased in the pioglitazone group compared with the diet/exercise group (p=0.02).


In insulin-resistant, non-diabetic adults, pioglitazone increases NEFA clearance during physiological hyperinsulinaemia, whereas improved insulin sensitivity achieved by diet/exercise does not alter NEFA clearance but enhances insulin suppression of NEFA release. This action of pioglitazone may contribute to improved glucose metabolism in type 2 diabetes.