Free fatty acids (FFAs) are an important substrate for myocardial and skeletal muscle metabolism, and increased availability and oxidation of FFA are suggested to be associated with insulin resistance. This study was undertaken to assess whether myocardial or muscle uptake of FFA is altered in patients with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). Eight healthy men (control group; age 48+/-1 years, BMI 25+/-1 kg/m2, mean +/- SE) and eight men with IGT (glucose-intolerant group; age 49+/-1 years, BMI 29+/-1 kg/m2) were studied in the fasting state. Myocardial oxygen consumption and blood flow and myocardial and femoral muscle FFA uptake rates were measured with positron emission tomography (PET) and [15O]O2, [15O]H2O, [15O]CO, and 14(R, S)-[18F]fluoro-6-thia-heptadecanoic acid ([18F]FTHA), a fatty acid tracer trapped into the cell after undergoing initial steps of beta-oxidation. Serum glucose and insulin concentrations were higher in the glucose-intolerant group during the PET study, but FFA concentrations were comparable between the groups. No differences between the groups were observed in the myocardial blood flow, oxygen consumption, fractional FTHA uptake rates, or FFA uptake indices (5.6+/-0.4 vs. 5.2+/-0.4 pmol x 100 g(-1) x min(-1), glucose-intolerant versus control, NS). In the femoral muscle, fractional FTHA uptake (0.0062+/-0.0003 vs. 0.0072+/-0.0003 min(-1), P = 0.044) and FFA uptake indices (0.30+/-0.02 vs. 0.43+/-0.04 min(-1), P = 0.020) were significantly lower in the glucose-intolerant group than in the control group. In conclusion, when studied at the fasting state and normal serum FFA concentrations, subjects with IGT have similar myocardial but lowered femoral muscle FFA uptake. This finding argues against the hypothesis that an increased oxidation of serum FFA, via the competition of glucose and FFA as fuel sources, is the primary cause for impaired peripheral glucose utilization and insulin resistance commonly observed in IGT.

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