Branched-chain amino acid levels are associated with improvement in insulin resistance with weight loss

S. H. Shah, D. R. Crosslin, C. S. Haynes, S. Nelson, C. B. Turer, R. D. Stevens, M. J. Muehlbauer, B. R. Wenner, J. R. Bain, B. Laferrère, P. Gorroochurn, J. Teixeira, P. J. Brantley, V. J. Stevens, J. F. Hollis, L. J. Appel, L. F. Lien, B. Batch, C. B. Newgard, L. P. Svetkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Aims/hypothesis: Insulin resistance (IR) improves with weight loss, but this response is heterogeneous. We hypothesised that metabolomic profiling would identify biomarkers predicting changes in IR with weight loss. Methods: Targeted mass spectrometry-based profiling of 60 metabolites, plus biochemical assays of NEFA, β-hydroxybutyrate, ketones, insulin and glucose were performed in baseline and 6 month plasma samples from 500 participants who had lost ≥4 kg during Phase I of the Weight Loss Maintenance (WLM) trial. Homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and change in HOMA-IR with weight loss (ΔHOMA-IR) were calculated. Principal components analysis (PCA) and mixed models adjusted for race, sex, baseline weight, and amount of weight loss were used; findings were validated in an independent cohort of patients (n=22). Results: Mean weight loss was 8.67±4.28 kg; mean ΔHOMA-IR was -0.80±1.73, range -28.9 to 4.82). Baseline PCA-derived factor 3 (branched chain amino acids [BCAAs] and associated catabolites) correlated with baseline HOMA-IR (r=0.50, p<0.0001) and independently associated with ΔHOMA-IR (p<0.0001). ΔHOMA-IR increased in a linear fashion with increasing baseline factor 3 quartiles. Amount of weight loss was only modestly correlated with ΔHOMA-IR (r=0.24). These findings were validated in the independent cohort, with a factor composed of BCAAs and related metabolites predicting ΔHOMA-IR (p=0.007). Conclusions/interpretation: A cluster of metabolites comprising BCAAs and related analytes predicts improvement in HOMA-IR independent of the amount of weight lost. These results may help identify individuals most likely to benefit from moderate weight loss and elucidate novel mechanisms of IR in obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Amino acids
  • Biomarker
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolites
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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