The prevalence of diabetes is known to be high in the West Indies, whereas CVD seems relatively rare. This apparently contradicts the existence of the insulin-resistance syndrome, a cluster of metabolic abnormalities supposedly favoring both diabetes and cardiovascular complications. To address the question of whether this contradiction could be accounted for by specific features of this syndrome, we compared 1505 Caucasian and 181 Afro-Caribbean men, all participants in the French Telecom Study. The Afro-Caribbeans were of the same age and had the same BMI as the Caucasians; they also had significantly higher subscapular skin-fold thickness and fasting insulin level, but similar BP and blood glucose level, and significantly lower plasma triglyceride level. Thus, although some features of the insulin-resistance syndrome were present (central adiposity and high insulin levels), none of the associated metabolic abnormalities were present. However, within the Afro-Caribbean group, subjects with plasma insulin concentrations above the median (>52 pM) had higher mean BP and glucose and triglyceride levels compared with subjects with insulin concentrations ≤52 pM (P < 0.001). After adjustment for age and BMI, these differences, though smaller, still were statistically significant. These findings confirm that higher insulin concentrations are associated with higher levels of potentially atherogenic and diabetogenic metabolic parameters. However, depending on ethnic origin, the mean levels of these parameters seem to be different, with the consequence that, even if they are elevated with increasing insulin levels, they may not reach values high enough to determine a substantial risk of disease.

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