To examine low-density lipoprotein (LDL) size, LDL susceptibility to oxidation, and plasma insulin levels in children with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Fifty-nine SLE patients and 59 healthy, age-matched control subjects were studied. LDL size was determined by gradient gel electrophoresis. LDL oxidizability was assessed by lag time for conjugated diene formation during copper incubation. Plasma levels of fasting insulin, glucose, lipids, lipoproteins, apolipoproteins B and A-I, and fatty acids were also measured.
Compared with control subjects, SLE patients showed significantly higher plasma insulin levels and increased susceptibility of LDLs to oxidation. Patients with active disease were more likely than patients with inactive disease or control subjects to have the following lipid characteristics: small, dense LDL subclass, elevated total cholesterol levels, elevated LDL cholesterol levels, elevated triglyceride levels, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Statistically significant direct correlations were observed between disease activity and triglyceride levels and between disease activity and lag time, whereas significant inverse correlations were found between disease activity and HDL-C levels and between disease activity and LDL size. Prednisone dosage explained only 15.6% of the variance in insulin levels.
SLE patients have higher plasma insulin levels and increased LDL oxidizability compared with healthy control subjects. These abnormalities may contribute to the accelerated atherosclerosis observed in patients with SLE.