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Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018 Nov 6;15:78. doi: 10.1186/s12986-018-0316-5. eCollection 2018.

Circulating glutamate concentration as a biomarker of visceral obesity and associated metabolic alterations.

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1Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, Laval University, 2725 Chemin Sainte-Foy, Québec, QC G1V 4G5 Canada.
2School of Nutrition, Laval University, Québec, Canada.
3INSA, University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Villeurbanne, France.
Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Experimental Genetics, Genome Analysis Center, Neuherberg, Oberschleißheim, Germany.



Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) area is a strong predictor of obesity-related cardiometabolic alterations, but its measurement is costly, time consuming and, in some cases, involves radiation exposure. Glutamate, a by-product of branched-chain-amino-acid (BCAA) catabolism, has been shown to be increased in visceral obese individuals. In this follow-up data analysis, we aimed to investigate the ability of plasma glutamate to identify individuals with visceral obesity and concomitant metabolic alterations.


Measurements of adiposity, targeted blood metabolomics and cardiometabolic risk factors were performed in 59 healthy middle-aged women. Visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue areas were measured by computed tomography (CT) whereas body fat and lean mass were assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).


The univariate Pearson correlation coefficient between glutamate and VAT area was r = 0.46 (p < 0.001) and it was r = 0.36 (p = 0.006) when adjusted for total body fat mass. Glutamate allowed to identify individuals with VAT areas ≥100 cm2 (ROC_AUC: 0.78, 95% CI: 0.66-0.91) and VAT ≥130 cm2 (ROC_AUC: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.56-0.87). The optimal glutamate concentration threshold determined from the ROC curve (glutamate ≥34.6 μmol/L) had a greater sensitivity than the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and the hypertriglyceridemic waist (HTW) phenotype to identify individuals with VAT ≥100 cm2 (83% for glutamate vs 52% for the MetS and 35% for the HTW). Variance analysis showed that women with a high circulating glutamate level (≥34.6 μmol/L) had an altered metabolic profile, particularly regarding total triglyceride levels and the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol in very-low-density lipoproteins (all p < 0.01).


Circulating glutamate is strongly associated with VAT area and may represent a potential screening tool for visceral obesity and alterations of the metabolic profile.


Branched-chain amino acids; Glutamate; Metabolomics; Visceral obesity; Waist circumference

Conflict of interest statement

The project was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) de Quebec. Written, informed consent was obtained from all prospective participants before they were included in the study.Not applicable.A.T. receives research grant support from Johnson & Johnson Medical Companies, Pfizer and Medtronic for studies unrelated to this manuscript. No author declared a conflict of interest.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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