Very low carbohydrate diet significantly alters the serum metabolic profiles in obese subjects

J Proteome Res. 2013 Dec 6;12(12):5801-11. doi: 10.1021/pr4008199. Epub 2013 Nov 18.


Emerging evidence has consistently shown that a very low carbohydrate diet (VLCD) can protect against the development of obesity, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we applied a comprehensive metabonomics approach using ultraperformance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry to study the effects of an 8-week dietary intervention with VLCD on serum metabolic profiles in obese subjects. The VLCD intervention resulted in a weight loss and significantly decreased homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance. The metabonomics analysis identified a number of differential serum metabolites (p < 0.05) primarily attributable to fatty acids, amino acids including branched chain amino acids, amines, lipids, carboxylic acids, and carbohydrates in obese subjects compared to healthy controls. The correlation analysis among time, VLCD intervention, and clinical parameters revealed that the changes of metabolites correlated with the changes of clinical parameters and showed differences in males and females. Fatty acids, amino acids, and carboxylic acids were increased in obese subjects compared with their normal healthy counterparts. Such increased levels of serum metabolites were attenuated after VLCD intake, suggesting that the health beneficial effects of VLCD are associated with attenuation of impaired fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. It also appears that VLCD induced significant metabolic alterations independent of the obesity-related metabolic changes. The altered metabolites in obese subjects post-VLCD intervention include arachidonate, cis-11,14-eicosadienoate, cis-11,14,17-eicosatrienoate, 2-aminobutyrate, acetyl-carnitine, and threonate, all of which are involved in inflammation and oxidation processes. The results revealed favorable shifts in fatty acids and amino acids after VLCD intake in obese subjects, which should be considered biomarkers for evaluating health beneficial effects of VLCD and similar dietary interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Carboxylic Acids / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted*
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Sex Factors
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Weight Loss


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Fatty Acids