Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Variation in adiposity is associated with cardiometabolic disease outcomes, but mechanisms leading from this exposure to disease are unclear. This study aimed to estimate effects of body mass index (BMI) on an extensive set of circulating proteins. Methods: We used SomaLogic proteomic data from up to 2737 healthy participants from the INTERVAL study. Associations between self-reported BMI and 3622 unique plasma proteins were explored using linear regression. These were complemented by Mendelian randomisation (MR) analyses using a genetic risk score (GRS) comprised of 654 BMI-associated polymorphisms from a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) of adult BMI. A disease enrichment analysis was performed using DAVID Bioinformatics 6.8 for proteins which were altered by BMI. Results: Observationally, BMI was associated with 1576 proteins (P < 1.4 × 10−5), with particularly strong evidence for a positive association with leptin and fatty acid-binding protein-4 (FABP4), and a negative association with sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Observational estimates were likely confounded, but the GRS for BMI did not associate with measured confounders. MR analyses provided evidence for a causal relationship between BMI and eight proteins including leptin (0.63 standard deviation (SD) per SD BMI, 95% CI 0.48–0.79, P = 1.6 × 10−15), FABP4 (0.64 SD per SD BMI, 95% CI 0.46–0.83, P = 6.7 × 10−12) and SHBG (−0.45 SD per SD BMI, 95% CI −0.65 to −0.25, P = 1.4 × 10−5). There was agreement in the magnitude of observational and MR estimates (R2 = 0.33) and evidence that proteins most strongly altered by BMI were enriched for genes involved in cardiovascular disease. Conclusions: This study provides evidence for a broad impact of adiposity on the human proteome. Proteins strongly altered by BMI include those involved in regulating appetite, sex hormones and inflammation; such proteins are also enriched for cardiovascular disease-related genes. Altogether, results help focus attention onto new proteomic signatures of obesity-related disease.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Obesity

Publication Date