Combined untargeted and targeted metabolomic profiling reveals urinary biomarkers for discriminating obese from normal-weight adolescents

Pediatr Obes. 2017 Apr;12(2):93-101. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12114. Epub 2016 Feb 22.


Background: Childhood and adolescent obesity may lead to obesity and related complications in adulthood. Biomarkers of obesity can be useful for screening for obesity complications and promoting early intervention during school age. Thus, the metabolomic differences in obese children and adolescents should be investigated for identification of potential biomarkers.

Objectives: We investigated urinary biomarkers to distinguish metabolomic characteristics between obesity and normal weight in adolescents.

Methods: Adolescent subjects were divided into non-obese (n = 91) and obese (n = 93) groups according to body mass index. Untargeted and targeted metabolomic profiling of urine was performed using high-performance liquid chromatography (LC)-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MS), LC-MS/MS and flow injection analysis-MS/MS systems, respectively.

Results: Multivariate statistical analysis showed clear discrimination between the untargeted metabolomes of non-obese and obese groups. Seven endogenous metabolites were distinguished in the obese group, and inflammation-related metabolite markers showed strong predictive power for group classification. From targeted metabolomics, 45 metabolites mostly related to inflammation were significantly different in the obese group.

Conclusions: Significantly different metabolome signatures were identified between normal-weight and obese adolescents. Combined untargeted and targeted metabolomics demonstrated that inflammation-driven insulin resistance, ammonia toxicity and oxidative stress may represent crucial metabolomic signatures in obese adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescent obesity; biomarker; inflammation; metabolome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers / urine*
  • Child
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Flow Injection Analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Registries
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Biomarkers