A Metabolomic Signature of Acute Caloric Restriction

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Dec 1;102(12):4486-4495. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-01020.


Context: The experimental paradigm of acute caloric restriction (CR) followed by refeeding (RF) can be used to study the homeostatic mechanisms that regulate energy homeostasis, which are relevant to understanding the adaptive response to weight loss.

Objective: Metabolomics, the measurement of hundreds of small molecule metabolites, their precursors, derivatives, and degradation products, has emerged as a useful tool for the study of physiology and disease and was used here to study the metabolic response to acute CR.

Participants, design, and setting: We used four ultra high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry methods to characterize changes in carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, and steroids in eight normal weight men at baseline, after 48 hours of CR (10% of energy requirements) and after 48 hours of ad libitum RF in a tightly controlled environment.

Results: We identified a distinct metabolomic signature associated with acute CR characterized by the expected switch from carbohydrate to fat utilization with increased lipolysis and β-fatty acid oxidation. We found an increase in ω-fatty acid oxidation and levels of endocannabinoids, which are known to promote food intake. These changes were reversed with RF. Several plasmalogen phosphatidylethanolamines (endogenous antioxidants) significantly decreased with CR (all P ≤ 0.0007). Additionally, acute CR was associated with an increase in the branched chain amino acids (all P ≤ 1.4 × 10-7) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (P = 0.0006).

Conclusions: We identified a distinct metabolomic signature associated with acute CR. Further studies are needed to characterize the mechanisms that mediate these changes and their potential contribution to the adaptive response to dietary restriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / physiology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Lipolysis
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Steroids / blood
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Amino Acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Fatty Acids
  • Steroids
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate