Intestinal permeability parameters in obese patients are correlated with metabolic syndrome risk factors

Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;31(5):735-40. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Mar 22.


Background & aims: Altered intestinal permeability has been shown to be associated with metabolic alterations in animal models of obesity, but not in humans. The aim of this study was to assess intestinal permeability in obese women and verify if there is any association with anthropometric measurements, body composition or biochemical variables.

Methods: Twenty lean and twenty obese females participated in the study. Anthropometric measurements, body composition and blood pressure were assessed and biochemical analyses were performed. Administration of lactulose and mannitol followed by their quantification in urine was used to assess the intestinal permeability of volunteers.

Results: The obese group showed lower HDL (p < 0.05), higher fasting glucose, insulin, HOMA index and lactulose excretion than the lean group (p < 0.05), suggesting increased paracellular permeability. Lactulose excretion showed positive correlation (p < 0.05) with waist and abdominal circumference. Blood insulin and the HOMA index also increased with the increase in mannitol and lactulose excretion and in the L/M ratio (p < 0.05). L/M ratio presented a negative correlation with HDL concentration (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: We demonstrated that intestinal permeability parameters in obese women are positively correlated with anthropometric measurements and metabolic variables. Therapeutic interventions focused on intestine health and the modulation of intestinal permeability should be explored in the context of obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Composition
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Lactulose / administration & dosage
  • Mannitol / administration & dosage
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Permeability
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Insulin
  • Mannitol
  • Lactulose