Urine Profiles Offer Insight into ‘Metabolic Signature’ of Obesity

ATL1103 Decreases IGF-1 in Acromegaly Trial
ATL1103 Decreases IGF-1 in Acromegaly Trial
Researchers have found chemical markers in urine that are linked to body mass and may provide insight into how obesity causes disease.

Researchers have identified urinary metabolites that are associated with adiposity, which may offer insight into how obesity triggers diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to data published in Science Translational Medicine.

Adiposity is associated with increased mortality from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, contributing to an estimated 3.4 million deaths per year worldwide. However, the mechanisms by which adiposity may contribute to increased risk of these diseases are not fully understood,” the researchers wrote.

“Better knowledge about the effects of adiposity on human metabolism and the complex metabolic pathway connections underlying them is needed to provide new insights into perturbations that link adiposity to human disease risks.”

To learn more, the researchers performed 24-hour urinary metabolic profiling by proton (1H) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and ion exchange chromatography to characterize the metabolic signatures of adiposity in the U.S. (n=1,880) and U.K. (n=444) cohorts of the INTERMAP (International Study of Macro- and Micronutrients and Blood Pressure) epidemiologic study.

Metabolic profiling of the urine samples collected over two 24-hour time periods 3 weeks apart revealed reproducible patterns of metabolite excretion associated with adiposity, the researchers noted.

Further, they identified 29 metabolic products, clustered in interconnecting metabolic pathways, whose levels correlated with the person’s BMI.

Some of the metabolites found in the study are produced by gut bacteria, suggesting the potentially important role that these organisms play in obesity. Altered patterns of energy-related metabolites produced in the muscles were also associated with obesity, according to the researchers.

“Obesity has become a huge problem all over the world, threatening to overwhelm health services and drive life expectancy gains into reverse. Tackling it is an urgent priority, and it requires us to have a much better understanding of how body fat and other aspects of biology are related,” senior study author Jeremy Nicholson, PhD, director of the MRC NIHR National Phenome Centre at Imperial College London, said in a press release.

“These findings provide possible starting points for new approaches to preventing and treating obesity and its associated diseases.”

Paul Elliott, MBBS, PhD, FMedSci, study co-author and head of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Imperial College London also commented on the implications of their findings.

“Our results point to patterns of metabolic markers in the urine associated with obesity. It may be possible to identify non-obese people who have such patterns in their urine profile. These people could be at risk of developing obesity and metabolic diseases, and might benefit from personalized preventative interventions,” Elliott said in the release.


  1. Elliott P et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015;doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa5680.