UW Health: Blood changes may identify Metabolic Syndrome before it develops

For Release:
August 13, 2015

CONTACT: Susan Lampert Smith

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MADISON, Wis. – A study of overweight monkeys suggests that a different sort of blood test could identify individuals who will later go on to develop metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome is an increasingly common constellation of symptoms: increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. It can set the stage for type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Dr. Rozalyn Anderson and collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that changes in a blood lipid called diacylglycerides occur long before standard markers detected in current tests, such as increases in fasting glucose levels.

“These plasma lipids may be able to tell the difference between a person who is overweight but healthy and someone who is at risk for disease,” says Anderson, an assistant professor of medicine and geriatrics. “Moving up the time frame for detecting metabolic syndrome and diabetes risk could give a better chance to prevent or slow these diseases.”

The study was published recently in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Anderson and collaborators monitored 16 overweight rhesus macaque monkeys for two years – the equivalent of six years of human aging.

They found that changes in in a class of lipids called diacylglycerides occur much earlier in disease progression than was previously known.

Furthermore, they show that differences in the makeup of these plasma lipids can actually act as 100 percent accurate biomarkers for metabolic disease. Importantly, these biomarkers operate in a time frame of disease progression earlier than that detected by current routine clinical tests, before increases in fasting glucose occur.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Aging. Anderson does her research at the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.