People with metabolically healthy obesity (MHO) may still have an increased risk for cardiovascular mortality compared to metabolically healthy lean (MHL) individuals. However, the mechanisms linking obesity to cardiovascular diseases are not entirely understood. We therefore tested the hypothesis that circulating cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) are higher in MHO compared to MHL individuals.
Serum concentrations of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1), soluble vascular adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1), E-selectin and P-selectin were measured in age- and sex-matched groups of MHL (n = 32), MHO categorized into BMI-matched insulin sensitive (IS, n = 32) or insulin resistant (IR) obesity (n = 32) and people with metabolically unhealthy obesity (MUO, n = 32).
Indeed, individuals with MHO have significantly higher sICAM-1, E-selectin, and P-selectin serum concentrations compared to MHL people. However, these CAMs are still significantly lower in IS compared to IR MHO. There was no difference between the groups in sVCAM-1 serum concentrations. Compared to all other groups, circulating adhesion molecules were significantly higher in individuals with MUO.
These findings suggest that obesity-related increased cardiovascular risk is reflected and may be mediated by significantly higher CAMs. The mechanisms causing elevated adhesion molecules even in the absence of overt cardio-metabolic risk factors and whether circulating CAMs could predict cardiovascular events need to be explored.