Acquired obesity is associated with changes in the serum lipidomic profile independent of genetic effects--a monozygotic twin study

PLoS One. 2007 Feb 14;2(2):e218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000218.


Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the etiology of obesity and the associated lipid disturbances. We determined whether acquired obesity is associated with changes in global serum lipid profiles independent of genetic factors in young adult monozygotic (MZ) twins. 14 healthy MZ pairs discordant for obesity (10 to 25 kg weight difference) and ten weight concordant control pairs aged 24-27 years were identified from a large population-based study. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by the euglycemic clamp technique, and body composition by DEXA (% body fat) and by MRI (subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat). Global characterization of lipid molecular species in serum was performed by a lipidomics strategy using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Obesity, independent of genetic influences, was primarily related to increases in lysophosphatidylcholines, lipids found in proinflammatory and proatherogenic conditions and to decreases in ether phospholipids, which are known to have antioxidant properties. These lipid changes were associated with insulin resistance, a pathogonomic characteristic of acquired obesity in these young adult twins. Our results show that obesity, already in its early stages and independent of genetic influences, is associated with deleterious alterations in the lipid metabolism known to facilitate atherogenesis, inflammation and insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet Records
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Metabolomics
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sphingomyelins / blood
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • Lipids
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • Sphingomyelins