Fenofibrate reduces systemic inflammation markers independent of its effects on lipid and glucose metabolism in patients with the metabolic syndrome

Renata Belfort, Rachele Berria, John Cornell, Kenneth Cusi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Context: Fenofibrate is a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β agonist widely used in clinical practice, but its mechanism of action is incompletely understood. Objective: The aim of the study was to assess whether improvement in subclinical inflammation or glucose metabolism contributes to its antiatherogenic effects in insulin-resistant subjects with the metabolic syndrome (MetS). Design and Setting: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in the research unit at an academic center. Patients: We studied 25 nondiabetic insulin-resistant MetS subjects. Intervention(s): We administered fenofibrate (200 mg/d) and placebo for 12 wk. Main Outcome Measures: Before and after treatment, we measured plasma lipids/apolipoproteins, inflammatory markers (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, IL-6, intercellular adhesion molecule/vascular cell adhesion molecule), adipocytokines (adiponectin, TNFα, leptin), and insulin secretion (oral glucose tolerance test). We also assessed adipose tissue, hepatic and peripheral (muscle) insulin resistance fasting and during a euglycemic insulin clamp with 3H glucose and 14C palmitate infusion combined with indirect calorimetry. Results: Subjects displayed severe insulin resistance and systemic inflammation. Fenofibrate significantly reduced plasma triglyceride, apolipoprotein (apo) CII, apo CIII, and apo E (all P < 0.01), with a modest increase in high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (+12%; P = 0.06). Fenofibrate markedly decreased plasma high-sensitivity C-reactive protein by 49.5 ± 8% (P = 0.005) and IL-6 by 29.8 ± 7% (P = 0.03) vs. placebo. However, neither insulin secretion nor adipose tissue, hepatic or muscle insulin sensitivity or glucose/lipid oxidation improved with treatment. Adiponectin and TNF-α levels were also unchanged. Improvement in plasma markers of vascular/systemic inflammation was dissociated from changes in triglyceride/high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, apo CII/CIII, or free fatty acid concentrations or insulin secretion/insulin sensitivity. Conclusions: In subjects with the MetS, fenofibrate reduces systemic inflammation independent of improvements in lipoprotein metabolism and without changing insulin sensitivity. This suggests a direct peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α-mediated effect of fenofibrate on inflammatory pathways, which may be important for the prevention of CVD in high-risk patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-836
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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