Research Paper Volume 12, Issue 15 pp 15302—15313

Associations between serum metabolites and subclinical atherosclerosis in a Chinese population: the Taizhou Imaging Study

Yanfeng Jiang1,2, *, , Kexun Zhang2,3, *, , Zhen Zhu2,3, , Mei Cui4, , Yanpeng An5, , Yingzhe Wang4, , Chen Suo2,3, , Min Fan6, , Li Jin1,2, , Weizhong Tian7, , Xingdong Chen1,2, ,

  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering, Human Phenome Institute, and School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 2 Fudan University Taizhou Institute of Health Sciences, Taizhou, Jiangsu, China
  • 3 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 4 Department of Neurology, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 5 Metabonomics and Systems Biology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 6 Taixing Disease Control and Prevention Center, Taizhou, Jiangsu, China
  • 7 Department of Medical Imaging, Taizhou People’s Hospital Affiliated to Nantong University, Taizhou, Jiangsu, China
* Equal contribution

Received: February 15, 2020       Accepted: May 27, 2020       Published: July 9, 2020
How to Cite

Copyright © 2020 Jiang et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Metabolomics provides a promising tool for understanding the pathophysiology and identifying biomarkers of atherosclerosis. We aimed to estimate the associations between circulating metabolites and subclinical atherosclerosis in a Chinese cohort. The baseline serum levels of 38 metabolites of 489 individuals were measured using nuclear magnetic resonance. Associations between metabolites and brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV) and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) were determined using a linear regression. A multivariate logistic regression was used to evaluate the associations of metabolites and subclinical atherosclerosis defined as high baPWV (>median) and increased IMT (>median). After adjusting for covariates and multiple testing corrections (false discovery rate; FDR), two branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs; leucine and isoleucine), one ketone (acetoacetate), and two lipids were positively associated with baPWV. Lactate was inversely associated with IMT. Elevated acetoacetate levels (odds ratio: 1.53, 95% confidence interval: 1.20-1.97; FDR <0.001) and four other lipid features were associated with an increased risk of high baPWV. Alterations in circulating lipids and BCAAs were associated with the risk of arterial stiffness in the middle-aged Chinese population. Our findings provide clues to understanding the potential mechanisms of subclinical atherosclerosis; however, further validation in a broader population context and the exploration of potential clinical applications are warranted.


CVD: cardiovascular disease; IMT: carotid intima-media thickness; baPWV: brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity; BMI: body mass index; TC: total cholesterol; TGs: triglycerides; HDL–C: high–density lipoprotein cholesterol; LDL–C: low–density lipoprotein cholesterol; FDR: false discovery rate; BCAAs: branched-chain amino acids.