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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Aug;33(8):1511-1517. doi: 10.1111/jgh.14104. Epub 2018 Mar 24.

Prediction of carotid intima-media thickness in obese patients with low prevalence of comorbidities by serum copper bioavailability.

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Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Federico II University Medical School of Naples, Naples, Italy.
MeSVA Department, University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy.
Francesco Balsano Foundation, Rome, Italy.



Western societies, with growing prevalence, suffer from various metabolic diseases like obesity and hepatic steatosis, better defined as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or cardiovascular (CV) diseases that are strictly linked to each other. The association of their occurrence with the altered homeostasis of metals is an intriguing issue. Copper in particular was identified as key player in various metabolic derangements. On these bases, we aimed at investigating the possible association of serum copper levels with an indicator of early CV risk as the intima-media thickness (IMT) of carotid artery and its predictive value in a selected population of obese patients.


We performed a cross-sectional study recruiting 100 obese patients characterized by a low prevalence of comorbidities. Ultrasound investigation for hepatic steatosis and IMT evaluation were performed. Serum samples were collected and then analyzed through atomic absorption spectrometry to evaluate their copper content. Possible correlations between copper bioavailability and biochemical, clinical, and anthropometric characteristics of patients were sought.


Age negatively predicted copper serum levels of patients (P = 0.009). However, the most interesting finding is the negative prediction of IMT by the copper serum levels (t = -2.23, P = 0.028, least absolute deviations regression). Factor analysis confirmed the aforementioned inverse correlation and highlighted the strong inverse correlation between smoking and copper serum levels.


Our data show that an altered copper bioavailability predicts early atherosclerosis as main CV risk in obese patients with hepatic steatosis detected by ultrasound, shedding some light in this pathological scenario.


cardiovascular risk; copper; hepatic steatosis; intima-media thickness; obesity

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