Childhood obesity is a significant health problem that has reached epidemic proportions around the world and is associated with several metabolic and cardiovascular complications. Insulin resistance is a common feature of childhood obesity and is considered to be an important link between adiposity and the associated risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance is also a key component of the metabolic syndrome, and its prevalence in the paediatric population is increasing, particularly among obese children and adolescents. Several factors are implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity-related insulin resistance, such as increased free fatty acids and many hormones and cytokines released by adipose tissue.
Valid and reliable methods are essential to assess the presence and the extent of insulin resistance, the associated risk factors and the effect of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions. The two most common tests to assess insulin resistance are the hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp and the frequently sampled i.v. glucose tolerance test utilizing the minimal model. However, both these tests are not easily accomplished, are time consuming, expensive and invasive. Simpler methods to assess insulin resistance based on surrogate markers derived from an oral glucose tolerance test or from fasting insulin and glucose levels have been validated in children and adolescents and widely used.
Given the strong association between obesity, insulin resistance and the development of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, prevention and treatment of childhood obesity appear to be essential to prevent the development of insulin resistance and the associated complications.