Insulin Resistance, Hyperinsulinemia, and Hypertension: Causes, Consequences, or Merely Correlations?

John E. Hall, Michael W Brands, Dion H. Zappe, Magdalena Alonso Galicia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Resistance to the metabolic effects of insulin and compensatory hyperinsulinemia have been postulated to mediate human essential hypertension, especially when associated with obesity. Evidence supporting this hypothesis has come mainly from epidemiological studies showing correlations between insulin resistance, hyper-insulinemia, and blood pressure, and from short-term studies suggesting that insulin has renal and sympathetic effects that could raise blood pressure if the effects were sustained. However, there have been no studies demonstrating a direct causal relationship between chronic hypertension and insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia in humans. The few long-term studies that have been conducted in dogs and humans do not support the hypothesis that hyperinsulinemia causes hypertension or potentiates the hypertensive effects of other pressor agents such as angiotensin II or increased adrenergic tone. To the contrary, multiple studies in dogs and in humans suggest that the vasodilator action of insulin tends to reduce blood pressure. Although resistance to insulin's metabolic effects has been suggested to be essential for hyperinsulinemia to cause hypertension, chronic increases in plasma insulin concentrations do not cause hypertension in dogs or humans even in the presence of insulin resistance. Also, recent studies have also shown that the blood pressure-lowering effects of antihyperglycemic agents, initially believed to lower blood pressure by decreasing insulin resistance, may be unrelated to their effects on insulin sensitivity. Obesity appears to be a key factor in accounting for correlations between insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertension, but increased blood pressure in obesity does not appear to be mediated by insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Although insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia may not be directly linked to hypertension, there is increasing evidence that metabolic abnormalities associated with insulin resistance may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (e.g., coronary artery disease) associated with hypertension and Type II diabetes. For this reason, further studies of the long-term effects of insulin resistance on cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic functions are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-329
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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