Limitations of the fasting proinsulin to insulin ratio as a measure of β-cell health in people with and without impaired glucose tolerance

Aoife M. Egan, Marcello C. Laurenti, Maria Daniela Hurtado Andrade, Chiara Dalla Man, Claudio Cobelli, Kent R. Bailey, Adrian Vella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The fasting proinsulin to insulin ratio is elevated in people with type 2 diabetes and has been suggested as a marker of β-cell health. However, its utility in discriminating between individuals with varying degrees of β-cell dysfunction is unclear. Proinsulin has a very different half-life to insulin and unlike insulin does not undergo hepatic extraction prior to reaching the systemic circulation. Given these limitations, we sought to examine the relationship between fasting and postprandial concentrations of β-cell polypeptides (proinsulin, insulin and C-peptide) in people with normal and impaired glucose tolerance in differing metabolic environments. Design: Subjects were studied on two occasions in random order while undergoing an oral challenge. During one study day, free fatty acids were elevated (to induce insulin resistance) by infusion of Intralipid with heparin. Proinsulin to insulin and proinsulin to C-peptide ratios were calculated for the 0-, 30-, 60- and 240-minute time points. Insulin action (Si) and β-cell responsivity (Φ) indices were calculated using the oral minimal model. Results: The fasting proinsulin to c-peptide or fasting proinsulin to insulin ratios did not differ between groups and did not predict subsequent β-cell responsivity to glucose during the glycerol or Intralipid study days in either group. Conclusions: Among nondiabetic individuals, the fasting proinsulin to insulin ratio is not a useful marker of β-cell function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13469
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • disposition index
  • endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • insulin
  • insulin action
  • proinsulin
  • unfolded protein response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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