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Concept: Metabolism


The obesity epidemic in the U.S. has led to extensive research into potential contributing dietary factors, especially fat and fructose. Recently, increased consumption of soybean oil, which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), has been proposed to play a causal role in the epidemic. Here, we designed a series of four isocaloric diets (HFD, SO-HFD, F-HFD, F-SO-HFD) to investigate the effects of saturated versus unsaturated fat, as well as fructose, on obesity and diabetes. C57/BL6 male mice fed a diet moderately high in fat from coconut oil and soybean oil (SO-HFD, 40% kcal total fat) showed statistically significant increases in weight gain, adiposity, diabetes, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance compared to mice on a diet consisting primarily of coconut oil (HFD). They also had fatty livers with hepatocyte ballooning and very large lipid droplets as well as shorter colonic crypt length. While the high fructose diet (F-HFD) did not cause as much obesity or diabetes as SO-HFD, it did cause rectal prolapse and a very fatty liver, but no balloon injury. The coconut oil diet (with or without fructose) increased spleen weight while fructose in the presence of soybean oil increased kidney weight. Metabolomics analysis of the liver showed an increased accumulation of PUFAs and their metabolites as well as γ-tocopherol, but a decrease in cholesterol in SO-HFD. Liver transcriptomics analysis revealed a global dysregulation of cytochrome P450 (Cyp) genes in SO-HFD versus HFD livers, most notably in the Cyp3a and Cyp2c families. Other genes involved in obesity (e.g., Cidec, Cd36), diabetes (Igfbp1), inflammation (Cd63), mitochondrial function (Pdk4) and cancer (H19) were also upregulated by the soybean oil diet. Taken together, our results indicate that in mice a diet high in soybean oil is more detrimental to metabolic health than a diet high in fructose or coconut oil.

Concepts: Unsaturated fat, Glucose, Insulin, Metabolism, Fat, Saturated fat, Obesity, Nutrition


Abnormal cancer metabolism creates a glycolytic-dependency which can be exploited by lowering glucose availability to the tumor. The ketogenic diet (KD) is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which decreases blood glucose and elevates blood ketones and has been shown to slow cancer progression in animals and humans. Abnormal tumor vasculature creates hypoxic pockets which promote cancer progression and further increase the glycolytic-dependency of cancers. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO2T) saturates tumors with oxygen, reversing the cancer promoting effects of tumor hypoxia. Since these non-toxic therapies exploit overlapping metabolic deficiencies of cancer, we tested their combined effects on cancer progression in a natural model of metastatic disease.

Concepts: Breast cancer, Metabolism, Protein, Nutrition, Carbohydrate, Oncology, Cancer, Oxygen


Ever more evidence associates short sleep with increased risk of metabolic diseases such as obesity, which may be related to a predisposition to non-homeostatic eating. Few studies have concurrently determined associations between sleep duration and objective measures of metabolic health as well as sleep duration and diet, however. We therefore analyzed associations between sleep duration, diet and metabolic health markers in UK adults, assessing associations between sleep duration and 1) adiposity, 2) selected metabolic health markers and 3) diet, using National Diet and Nutrition Survey data. Adults (n = 1,615, age 19-65 years, 57.1% female) completed questions about sleep duration and 3 to 4 days of food diaries. Blood pressure and waist circumference were recorded. Fasting blood lipids, glucose, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), thyroid hormones, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured in a subset of participants. We used regression analyses to explore associations between sleep duration and outcomes. After adjustment for age, ethnicity, sex, smoking, and socioeconomic status, sleep duration was negatively associated with body mass index (-0.46 kg/m2 per hour, 95% CI -0.69 to -0.24 kg/m2, p < 0.001) and waist circumference (-0.9 cm per hour, 95% CI -1.5 to -0.3cm, p = 0.004), and positively associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (0.03 mmol/L per hour, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.05, p = 0.03). Sleep duration tended to be positively associated with free thyroxine levels and negatively associated with HbA1c and CRP (p = 0.09 to 0.10). Contrary to our hypothesis, sleep duration was not associated with any dietary measures (p ≥ 0.14). Together, our findings show that short-sleeping UK adults are more likely to have obesity, a disease with many comorbidities.

Concepts: Hormone, C-reactive protein, Thyroid hormone, Metabolism, Obesity, Protein, Body mass index, Nutrition


Life history theory (LHT) predicts a trade-off between reproductive effort and the pace of biological aging. Energy invested in reproduction is not available for tissue maintenance, thus having more offspring is expected to lead to accelerated senescence. Studies conducted in a variety of non-human species are consistent with this LHT prediction. Here we investigate the relationship between the number of surviving children born to a woman and telomere length (TL, a marker of cellular aging) over 13 years in a group of 75 Kaqchikel Mayan women. Contrary to LHT’s prediction, women who had fewer children exhibited shorter TLs than those who had more children (p = 0.045) after controlling for TL at the onset of the 13-year study period. An “ultimate” explanation for this apparently protective effect of having more children may lay with human’s cooperative-breeding strategy. In a number of socio-economic and cultural contexts, having more chilren appears to be linked to an increase in social support for mothers (e.g., allomaternal care). Higher social support, has been argued to reduce the costs of further reproduction. Lower reproductive costs may make more metabolic energy available for tissue maintenance, resulting in a slower pace of cellular aging. At a “proximate” level, mechanisms involved may include the actions of the gonadal steroid estradiol, which increases dramatically during pregnancy. Estradiol is known to protect TL from the effects of oxidative stress as well as increase telomerase activity, an enzyme that maintains TL. Future research should explore the potential role of social support as well as that of estradiol and other potential biological pathways in the trade-offs between reproductive effort and the pace of cellular aging within and among human as well as in non-human populations.

Concepts: Reproduction, Metabolism, Reproductive system, Human, Telomerase, Organism, Telomere, Senescence


The metabolic phenotype varies widely due to external factors such as diet and gut microbiome composition, among others. Despite these temporal fluctuations, urine metabolite profiling studies have suggested that there are highly individual phenotypes that persist over extended periods of time. This hypothesis was tested by analyzing the exhaled breath of a group of subjects during nine days by mass spectrometry. Consistent with previous metabolomic studies based on urine, we conclude that individual signatures of breath composition exist. The confirmation of the existence of stable and specific breathprints may contribute to strengthen the inclusion of breath as a biofluid of choice in metabolomic studies. In addition, the fact that the method is rapid and totally non-invasive, yet individualized profiles can be tracked, makes it an appealing approach.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Phenotype, Natural selection, Metabolome, Scientific method, Metabolomics, Evolution, Metabolism


We investigated the effects of adaptation to a ketogenic low-carbohydrate (CHO), high-fat diet (LCHF) during 3 wk of intensified training on metabolism and performance of world-class endurance athletes. We controlled three isoenergetic diets in elite race walkers: High CHO availability (8.6 1.d(-1) CHO, 2.1 1.d(-1) protein; 1.2 1.d(-1) fat) consumed before/during/after training (HCHO, n = 9): identical macronutrient intake, periodised within/between days to alternate between low and high CHO availability (PCHO, n = 10); LCHF (<50 g.d(-1) CHO; 78% energy as fat; 2.1 1.d(-1) protein; LCHF, n = 10). Post-intervention, VO2 peak during race walking increased in all groups (P < 0.001, 90%CI: [2.55 - 5.20%]). LCHF was associated with markedly increased rates of whole-body fat oxidation, attaining peak rates of 1.57 ± 0.32 g.min(-1) during 2 h of walking at ∼80%VO2 peak. However, LCHF also increased the oxygen (O2 ) cost of race walking at velocities relevant to real-life race performance: O2 uptake (expressed as % of new VO2peak ) at a speed approximating 20 km race pace was reduced in HCHO and PCHO (90%CI:[-7.047;-2.55] and [-5.18;-0.86], respectively, but was maintained at pre-intervention levels in LCHF. HCHO and PCHO groups improved times for 10 km race walk: 6.6% (90% CI: [4.1; 9.1%]) and 5.3% [3.4; 7.2%], with no improvement (-1.6% [-8.5; 5.3%] for the LCHF group. In contrast to training with diets providing chronic or periodised high-CHO availability, and despite a significant improvement in VO2peak , adaptation to the topical LCHF diet negated performance benefits in elite endurance athletes, in part, due to reduced exercise economy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Ketosis, Racewalking, Carbohydrate, Low-carbohydrate diet, Metabolism, Walking, Ketogenic diet, Nutrition


Sauropod dinosaurs are a group of herbivorous dinosaurs which exceeded all other terrestrial vertebrates in mean and maximal body size. Sauropod dinosaurs were also the most successful and long-lived herbivorous tetrapod clade, but no abiological factors such as global environmental parameters conducive to their gigantism can be identified. These facts justify major efforts by evolutionary biologists and paleontologists to understand sauropods as living animals and to explain their evolutionary success and uniquely gigantic body size. Contributions to this research program have come from many fields and can be synthesized into a biological evolutionary cascade model of sauropod dinosaur gigantism (sauropod gigantism ECM). This review focuses on the sauropod gigantism ECM, providing an updated version based on the contributions to the PLoS ONE sauropod gigantism collection and on other very recent published evidence. The model consist of five separate evolutionary cascades (“Reproduction”, “Feeding”, “Head and neck”, “Avian-style lung”, and “Metabolism”). Each cascade starts with observed or inferred basal traits that either may be plesiomorphic or derived at the level of Sauropoda. Each trait confers hypothetical selective advantages which permit the evolution of the next trait. Feedback loops in the ECM consist of selective advantages originating from traits higher in the cascades but affecting lower traits. All cascades end in the trait “Very high body mass”. Each cascade is linked to at least one other cascade. Important plesiomorphic traits of sauropod dinosaurs that entered the model were ovipary as well as no mastication of food. Important evolutionary innovations (derived traits) were an avian-style respiratory system and an elevated basal metabolic rate. Comparison with other tetrapod lineages identifies factors limiting body size.

Concepts: Titanosaur, Evolution, Paleontology, Sauropodomorpha, Bird, Metabolism, Sauropoda, Dinosaur


The impairment of liver function by low environmentally relevant doses of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) is still a debatable and unresolved matter. Previously we have shown that rats administered for 2 years with 0.1 ppb (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent dilution; 4 ng/kg body weight/day daily intake) of a Roundup GBH formulation showed signs of enhanced liver injury as indicated by anatomorphological, blood/urine biochemical changes and transcriptome profiling. Here we present a multiomic study combining metabolome and proteome liver analyses to obtain further insight into the Roundup-induced pathology. Proteins significantly disturbed (214 out of 1906 detected, q < 0.05) were involved in organonitrogen metabolism and fatty acid β-oxidation. Proteome disturbances reflected peroxisomal proliferation, steatosis and necrosis. The metabolome analysis (55 metabolites altered out of 673 detected, p < 0.05) confirmed lipotoxic conditions and oxidative stress by showing an activation of glutathione and ascorbate free radical scavenger systems. Additionally, we found metabolite alterations associated with hallmarks of hepatotoxicity such as γ-glutamyl dipeptides, acylcarnitines, and proline derivatives. Overall, metabolome and proteome disturbances showed a substantial overlap with biomarkers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and its progression to steatohepatosis and thus confirm liver functional dysfunction resulting from chronic ultra-low dose GBH exposure.

Concepts: Steatosis, Oxidative stress, Radical, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Roundup, Fatty liver, Antioxidant, Metabolism


More than 2 million people in the United States have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). We performed targeted, broad-spectrum metabolomics to gain insights into the biology of CFS. We studied a total of 84 subjects using these methods. Forty-five subjects (n = 22 men and 23 women) met diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS by Institute of Medicine, Canadian, and Fukuda criteria. Thirty-nine subjects (n = 18 men and 21 women) were age- and sex-matched normal controls. Males with CFS were 53 (±2.8) y old (mean ± SEM; range, 21-67 y). Females were 52 (±2.5) y old (range, 20-67 y). The Karnofsky performance scores were 62 (±3.2) for males and 54 (±3.3) for females. We targeted 612 metabolites in plasma from 63 biochemical pathways by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, electrospray ionization, and tandem mass spectrometry in a single-injection method. Patients with CFS showed abnormalities in 20 metabolic pathways. Eighty percent of the diagnostic metabolites were decreased, consistent with a hypometabolic syndrome. Pathway abnormalities included sphingolipid, phospholipid, purine, cholesterol, microbiome, pyrroline-5-carboxylate, riboflavin, branch chain amino acid, peroxisomal, and mitochondrial metabolism. Area under the receiver operator characteristic curve analysis showed diagnostic accuracies of 94% [95% confidence interval (CI), 84-100%] in males using eight metabolites and 96% (95% CI, 86-100%) in females using 13 metabolites. Our data show that despite the heterogeneity of factors leading to CFS, the cellular metabolic response in patients was homogeneous, statistically robust, and chemically similar to the evolutionarily conserved persistence response to environmental stress known as dauer.

Concepts: Metabolic pathway, Protein, Adenosine triphosphate, Amino acid, Biochemistry, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Mass spectrometry, Metabolism


In endothermic species, heat released as a product of metabolism ensures stable internal temperature throughout the organism, despite varying environmental conditions. Mitochondria are major actors in this thermogenic process. Part of the energy released by the oxidation of respiratory substrates drives ATP synthesis and metabolite transport, but a substantial proportion is released as heat. Using a temperature-sensitive fluorescent probe targeted to mitochondria, we measured mitochondrial temperature in situ under different physiological conditions. At a constant external temperature of 38 °C, mitochondria were more than 10 °C warmer when the respiratory chain (RC) was fully functional, both in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells and primary skin fibroblasts. This differential was abolished in cells depleted of mitochondrial DNA or treated with respiratory inhibitors but preserved or enhanced by expressing thermogenic enzymes, such as the alternative oxidase or the uncoupling protein 1. The activity of various RC enzymes was maximal at or slightly above 50 °C. In view of their potential consequences, these observations need to be further validated and explored by independent methods. Our study prompts a critical re-examination of the literature on mitochondria.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Oxidative phosphorylation, Bacteria, DNA, Metabolism, Mitochondrion, Cellular respiration, Adenosine triphosphate