Serum growth differentiation factor 11 is closely related to metabolic syndrome in a Chinese cohort

J Diabetes Investig. 2021 Feb;12(2):234-243. doi: 10.1111/jdi.13337. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


Aims/introduction: Despite increasing interest in growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) based on its involvement in age-related disorders, clinical implications - especially for metabolic diseases - remain unclear. Therefore, we assessed the association between serum GDF11 levels and metabolic disturbance in the Chinese population.

Materials and methods: A total of 381 individuals from the Shanghai Nicheng Cohort Study were included. In addition to anthropometry, laboratory and ultrasonography measurements, serum concentrations of GDF11 were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Results: Circulating GDF11 concentrations were unchanged with age (r = -0.064, P = 0.210), but showed an inverse relationship to body mass index, waist circumference and fat-free mass index (all P < 0.05). Correlation analysis showed decreased GDF11 concentrations accompanied by elevated diastolic blood pressure, fasting and 2-h plasma glucose, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol after adjusting for sex, age and body mass index, whereas variations in aspartate aminotransferase and free thyroxine were consistent with GDF11 (all P < 0.05). Furthermore, people, especially men, with abnormal glycometabolism, body mass index and/or fat accumulation in the liver had lower serum levels of GDF11 (P < 0.05); an increase in metabolic syndrome morbidity along with the circulatory decline of GDF11 was found when stratified by GDF11-level quartiles (P-trend <0.001). Logistic regression showed that serum GDF11 levels were independently correlated with the presence of metabolic syndrome (odds ratio 0.665, 95% confidence interval 0.510-0.867, P = 0.003).

Conclusions: We confirmed GDF11 as an endocrine factor playing a significant role in multiple metabolic processes and an indicator of metabolic syndrome in the Chinese population, particularly in males.

Keywords: Fat-free mass; Growth differentiation factor 11; Metabolic disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Growth Differentiation Factors / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • GDF11 protein, human
  • Growth Differentiation Factors