Recent reports suggest that IGF (insulin-like growth factor)-I and IGFBP-3 (IGF-binding protein-3) have independent and opposing mechanistic effects on insulin. The aim of the present study was to assess the relationship between the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 ratio and the metabolic syndrome. We examined 3281 subjects (1463 men and 1818 women, aged 20–49 years), otherwise healthy adults, who participated in NHANES III (Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), which has released measurements of IGF-I and IGFBP-3. Insulin resistance was estimated using the computer HOMA2 (homoeostatic model assessment 2) model. The updated ATP-III (Adult Treatment Panel III) definition of the metabolic syndrome was used. We applied adjusted logistic and linear regression models. After adjusting for age and race, men and women in the lowest quartile of the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 ratio were 3-fold more likely to meet the ATP-III definition of the metabolic syndrome and twice as likely to be insulin-resistant. Mean values of the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 ratio decreased significantly as the number of metabolic syndrome components increased (P<0.0001, as determined by ANOVA). The area under the ROC (receiver operating characteristic) curve for detecting insulin resistance using the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 ratio was 0.760, significantly improving upon either protein alone (P=0.01). In conclusion, the IGF-I/IGFBP-3 ratio is significantly associated with the metabolic syndrome. Calculating the ratio of these two proteins may provide insight into the metabolic syndrome clustering phenomenon.

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