Metabolomics Reveals Metabolically Healthy and Unhealthy Obese Individuals Differ in their Response to a Caloric Challenge

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 14;10(8):e0134613. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134613. eCollection 2015.


Objective: To determine if metabolically healthy obese (MHO) individuals have a different metabolic response to a standardized diet compared to lean healthy (LH) and metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO) individuals.

Methods: Thirty adults (35-70 yrs) were classified as LH, MHO, and MUO according to anthropometric and clinical measurements. Participants consumed a standardized high calorie meal (~1330 kcal). Blood glucose and insulin were measured at fasting, and 15, 30, 60, 90 and 120 min postprandially. Additional blood samples were collected for the targeted analysis of amino acids (AAs) and derivatives, and fatty acids (FAs).

Results: The postprandial response (i.e., area under the curve, AUC) for serum glucose and insulin were similar between MHO and LH individuals, and significantly lower than MUO individuals (p < 0.05). Minor differences were found in postprandial responses for AAs between MHO and MUO individuals, while three polyunsaturated FAs (linoleic acid, γ-linolenic acid, arachidonic acid) showed smaller changes in serum after the meal in MHO individuals compared to MUO. Fasting levels for various AAs (notably branched-chain AA) and FAs (e.g., saturated myristic and palmitic acids) were found to correlate with glucose and insulin AUC.

Conclusion: MHO individuals show preserved insulin sensitivity and a greater ability to adapt to a caloric challenge compared to MUO individuals.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / classification*
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity, Metabolically Benign / diagnosis*
  • Obesity, Metabolically Benign / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Fatty Acids