Researchers have developed a more precise and nuanced method for predicting risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease than traditional body mass index (BMI) measurements. Scientists at Scripps Research have found a way to use molecular “signatures” from people with obesity to predict these risks. The authors of the study wrote, “While BMI correlates well and to a large extent with individual health outcomes, it does not have the sensitivity to identify outliers, some of which carry unique health consequences.”
The research is led by Amalio Telenti, MD, PhD, and shows that predictors of future diabetes and cardiovascular complications for an individual can be found among the body’s metabolites. Metabolites are molecules that all of us produce as we live, breathe, and eat. Scientists study the “metabolome,” which is a person’s collection of hundreds of metabolites. The metabolome creates specific signatures or combinations of variants that can indicate risk. "By looking at metabolome changes, we could identify individuals with a several-fold increase in their risk of developing of diabetes and cardiovascular disease over the ensuing years," says Telenti. Metabolome changes were not always associated with obesity – some people studied were lean but still at risk of disease.
This research looks like it will become a powerful tool for predicting and preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future. The study suggests that new technologies can broaden the way that scientists think about disease. You can learn a lot more about research related to molecular signatures by reading these two articles: