In the Journals

BMI increase adversely affects metabolic markers in lean young adults

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December 12, 2014

Multiple cardiometabolic risk markers are negatively affected by increases in excess body fat, even among normal weight young adults, according to recent study findings published in PLOS Medicine.

Peter Würtz, PhD, of the University of Oulu in Finland, and colleagues evaluated 12,664 adolescents and young adults (mean age, 26 years; 51% female) to determine the causal effects of BMI on 82 metabolic measures. A 6-year follow-up was conducted for 1,488 participants. The mean BMI of participants was 24.7 kg/m2.

Peter Wurtz

Peter Würtz

BMI was associated with 66 metabolic measures for men and 61 for women (P<.005 in meta-analyses). Men tended to have stronger metabolic measures than women.

A characteristic association pattern with BMI was found with lipoprotein lipids, the most pronounced being very low-density lipoprotein lipids. Monounsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, inflammatory markers, leptin, insulin and blood pressure had prominent direct associations with BMI.

Causal metabolic effects of adiposity were examined using gene information of the study participants on their genetic predisposition to elevated BMI. The causal effects of having higher BMI closely followed the characteristic pattern of metabolic associations observed with BMI in the cross-sectional study design. Thus, elevated BMI exerts of causal metabolic signature on numerous metabolic pathways including branched-chain and aromatic amino acids, sex-hormone balance, chronic inflammation and liver function, in addition to the well-known effects on glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. 

During 6-year follow-up, those metabolic measures that were most strongly associated with BMI at a single time point likewise displayed the highest responsiveness to weight change over time.

“Elevated BMI is causally affecting numerous metabolic pathways, including fatty acid composition, branched-chain and aromatic amino acids, sex-hormone balance and chronic inflammation and liver function, in addition to the well-known effects on glucose levels, lipids and blood pressure,” Würtz told Endocrine Today. “These metabolic aberrations are gradually increasing already from within the normal range of BMI. However, even a modest weight loss in early adulthood had beneficial effects throughout the comprehensive metabolic profile.” - by Amber Cox

Disclosure: See the full study for a complete list of the researchers’ relevant financial disclosures.