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      Metabolomic analysis of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes: amino acid and acylcarnitine levels change along a spectrum of metabolic wellness

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          Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a construct used to separate “healthy” from “unhealthy” obese patients, and is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease. There is controversy over whether obese “metabolically well” persons have a higher morbidity and mortality than lean counterparts, suggesting that MS criteria do not completely describe physiologic risk factors or consequences of obesity. We hypothesized that metabolomic analysis of plasma would distinguish obese individuals with and without MS and T2D along a spectrum of obesity-associated metabolic derangements, supporting metabolomic analysis as a tool for a more detailed assessment of metabolic wellness than currently used MS criteria.


          Fasting plasma samples from 90 adults were assigned to groups based on BMI and ATP III criteria for MS: (1) lean metabolically well (LMW; n = 24); (2) obese metabolically well (OBMW; n = 26); (3) obese metabolically unwell (OBMUW; n = 20); and (4) obese metabolically unwell with T2D (OBDM; n = 20). Forty-one amino acids/dipeptides, 33 acylcarnitines and 21 ratios were measured. Obesity and T2D effects were analyzed by Wilcoxon rank-sum tests comparing obese nondiabetics vs LMW, and OBDM vs nondiabetics, respectively. Metabolic unwellness was analyzed by Jonckheere-Terpstra trend tests, assuming worsening health from LMW → OBMW → OBMUW. To adjust for multiple comparisons, statistical significance was set at p < 0.005. K-means cluster analysis of aggregated amino acid and acylcarnitine data was also performed.


          Analytes and ratios significantly increasing in obesity, T2D, and with worsening health include: branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), cystine, alpha-aminoadipic acid, phenylalanine, leucine + lysine, and short-chain acylcarnitines/total carnitines. Tyrosine, alanine and propionylcarnitine increase with obesity and metabolic unwellness. Asparagine and the tryptophan/large neutral amino acid ratio decrease with T2D and metabolic unwellness. Malonylcarnitine decreases in obesity and 3-OHbutyrylcarnitine increases in T2D; neither correlates with unwellness. Cluster analysis did not separate subjects into discreet groups based on metabolic wellness.


          Levels of 15 species and metabolite ratios trend significantly with worsening metabolic health; some are newly recognized. BCAAs, aromatic amino acids, lysine, and its metabolite, alpha-aminoadipate, increase with worsening health. The lysine pathway is distinct from BCAA metabolism, indicating that biochemical derangements associated with MS involve pathways besides those affected by BCAAs. Even those considered “obese, metabolically well” had metabolite levels which significantly trended towards those found in obese diabetics. Overall, this analysis yields a more granular view of metabolic wellness than the sole use of cardiometabolic MS parameters. This, in turn, suggests the possible utility of plasma metabolomic analysis for research and public health applications.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Homocysteine and risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke: a meta-analysis.

          It has been suggested that total blood homocysteine concentrations are associated with the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke. To assess the relationship of homocysteine concentrations with vascular disease risk. MEDLINE was searched for articles published from January 1966 to January 1999. Relevant studies were identified by systematic searches of the literature for all reported observational studies of associations between IHD or stroke risk and homocysteine concentrations. Additional studies were identified by a hand search of references of original articles or review articles and by personal communication with relevant investigators. Studies were included if they had data available by January 1999 on total blood homocysteine concentrations, sex, and age at event. Studies were excluded if they measured only blood concentrations of free homocysteine or of homocysteine after a methionine-loading test or if relevant clinical data were unavailable or incomplete. Data from 30 prospective or retrospective studies involving a total of 5073 IHD events and 1113 stroke events were included in a meta-analysis of individual participant data, with allowance made for differences between studies, for confounding by known cardiovascular risk factors, and for regression dilution bias. Combined odds ratios (ORs) for the association of IHD and stroke with blood homocysteine concentrations were obtained by using conditional logistic regression. Stronger associations were observed in retrospective studies of homocysteine measured in blood collected after the onset of disease than in prospective studies among individuals who had no history of cardiovascular disease when blood was collected. After adjustment for known cardiovascular risk factors and regression dilution bias in the prospective studies, a 25% lower usual (corrected for regression dilution bias) homocysteine level (about 3 micromol/L [0.41 mg/L]) was associated with an 11% (OR, 0.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83-0.96) lower IHD risk and 19% (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.69-0.95) lower stroke risk. This meta-analysis of observational studies suggests that elevated homocysteine is at most a modest independent predictor of IHD and stroke risk in healthy populations. Studies of the impact on disease risk of genetic variants that affect blood homocysteine concentrations will help determine whether homocysteine is causally related to vascular disease, as may large randomized trials of the effects on IHD and stroke of vitamin supplementation to lower blood homocysteine concentrations.
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              Endothelial dysfunction: a multifaceted disorder (The Wiggers Award Lecture).

              Endothelial cells synthesize and release various factors that regulate angiogenesis, inflammatory responses, hemostasis, as well as vascular tone and permeability. Endothelial dysfunction has been associated with a number of pathophysiological processes. Oxidative stress appears to be a common denominator underlying endothelial dysfunction in cardiovascular diseases. However, depending on the pathology, the vascular bed studied, the stimulant, and additional factors such as age, sex, salt intake, cholesterolemia, glycemia, and hyperhomocysteinemia, the mechanisms underlying the endothelial dysfunction can be markedly different. A reduced bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO), an alteration in the production of prostanoids, including prostacyclin, thromboxane A2, and/or isoprostanes, an impairment of endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization, as well as an increased release of endothelin-1, can individually or in association contribute to endothelial dysfunction. Therapeutic interventions do not necessarily restore a proper endothelial function and, when they do, may improve only part of these variables.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                31 August 2018
                : 6
                [1 ]Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine , Cleveland, OH, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Cleveland Clinic , Cleveland, OH, United States of America
                [3 ]Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Genomic Medicine, Pediatrics and Neurological Institutes, Cleveland Clinic , Cleveland, OH, United States of America
                ©2018 Libert et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funded by: Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
                Funded by: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute of the Cleveland Clinic
                This work was supported by the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. There was no additional external funding received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Public Health
                Medical Genetics
                Metabolic Sciences


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