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Objective: Soluble CD163 (sCD163) is a new macrophage-specific serum marker elevated in inflammatory conditions. sCD163 is elevated in obesity and found to be a strong predictor of the development of type 2 diabetes. We investigated whether dietary intervention and moderate exercise was related to changes in sCD163 and how sCD163 is associated to insulin resistance in obesity.

Design and Methods: Ninety-six obese subjects were enrolled: 62 followed a very low energy diet (VLED) program for 8 weeks followed by 3-4 weeks of weight stabilization, 20 followed a moderate exercise program for 12 weeks, and 14 were included without any intervention. Fasting blood samples and anthropometric measures were taken at baseline and after intervention. Thirty-six lean subjects were included in a control group.

Results: sCD163 was significantly higher in obese subjects (2.3 ± 1.0 mg/l) compared with lean (1.6 ± 0.4 mg/l, P < 0.001). Weight loss (11%) induced by VLED resulted in a reduction and partial normalization of sCD163 to 2.0 ± 0.9 mg/l (P < 0.001). Exercise for 12 weeks had no effect on sCD163. At baseline, sCD163 was significantly correlated with BMI (r = 0.46), waist circumference (r = 0.40), insulin resistance measured by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR; r = 0.41; all P < 0.001), and the leptin-to-adiponectin ratio (r = 0.28, P < 0.05). In a multivariate linear regression analysis with various inflammatory markers, sCD163 (β = 0.25), adiponectin (β = −0.24), and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP; β = 0.20) remained independently and significantly associated to HOMA-IR (all P < 0.05). After further adjustment for waist circumference, only sCD163 was associated with HOMA-IR (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: The macrophage-specific serum marker sCD163 is increased in obesity and partially normalized by dietary-induced weight loss but not by moderate exercise. Furthermore, we confirm that sCD163 is a good marker for obesity-related insulin resistance.