Dietary patterns and cardiometabolic and endocrine plasma biomarkers in US women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Feb;105(2):432-441. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.143016. Epub 2016 Dec 14.


Background: Healthful dietary patterns have been associated with lower risks of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease, but their relations with intermediate markers of cardiometabolic and endocrine health are less established.

Objective: We evaluated the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), the alternate Mediterranean diet (aMED), and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (aHEI) diet-quality scores with cardiometabolic and endocrine plasma biomarkers in US women.

Design: The trial was a cross-sectional analysis of 775 healthy women in the Women's Lifestyle Validation Study that was conducted within the NHS (Nurses' Health Study) and NHS II longitudinal cohorts. Multiple linear regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used to estimate associations between quartiles of dietary pattern-adherence scores that were derived from a food-frequency questionnaire and plasma biomarker concentrations that were collected simultaneously.

Results: In multivariable models in which highest and lowest quartiles of dietary pattern scores were compared, 1) DASH was significantly associated with higher concentrations of high-density lipoprotein (9%) and sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) (21%), and lower concentrations of leptin (28%), triglycerides (19%), and C-peptide (4%) (all P-trend ≤ 0.04); 2) the aMED was associated with 19% higher SHBG and 16% lower triglycerides (P-trend = 0.02 and 0.003, respectively); and 3) the aHEI was associated with significantly higher concentrations of insulin (16%) and SHBG (19%) and lower concentrations of leptin (18%) (all P-trend ≤ 0.02). Further adjustment for body mass index (BMI) attenuated these associations but remained significant for 1) DASH with leptin and triglycerides and 2) the aMED with triglycerides (all P-trend ≤ 0.03).

Conclusions: Adherence to healthful dietary patterns is associated with favorable concentrations of many cardiometabolic and endocrine biomarkers. These relations are mediated in part by BMI.

Keywords: DASH; aHEI; alternate Mediterranean diet; cardiometabolic biomarkers; dietary patterns.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Body Mass Index
  • C-Peptide / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Leptin / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Leptin / blood
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • United States


  • Adiponectin
  • Biomarkers
  • C-Peptide
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • IGFBP3 protein, human
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Leptin
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Triglycerides
  • leptin receptor, human
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Folic Acid