There’s a new biomarker in the world of science that finally links heart disease and diabetes on the molecular level. Using levels of branched chain amino acids such as leucine, valine, and isoleucine in the blood stream constitutes a new blood test for predicting heart disease, introduced by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Experts believe branched chain amino acids are involved in triggering the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. They are also thought to play a role in producing an anabolic response and stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, a connection that lead branched chain amino acids to become an important focus in the world of nutritional supplements.
The present study was one of the first to examine the relationship between branched chain amino acids and heart disease, where researchers found that the new biomarker has predictive abilities similar to tests for LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and other known, well-studied risk factors.
Researchers analyzed data from over 27,000 women from the Women’s Health Study. With just one measurement of blood levels of branched chain amino acids, researchers could predict future risk of heart disease and diabetes. The results from the diagnostic test were completely independent of tests using LDL cholesterol and other risk factors, making branched chain amino acid tests an important measure to include.
Specifically, they found that higher levels of branched chain amino acids were linked with higher incidence of heart disease-related events, like heart attack and stroke. There was a particularly strong association between branched chain amino acids, heart disease, and women who developed diabetes before their event.
Researchers also found that branched chain amino acids could also be connected to other biomarkers of type 2 diabetes metabolism. Blood levels of branched chain amino acids were tested using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometry.
"[The connection] was particularly so for women who developed type 2 diabetes prior to their cardiovascular disease,” explained corresponding author Samia Mora, MD.
"There is little known at this time as to what leads to elevated levels of BCAAs or what can be done clinically to reduce them, and if this leads to a reduction in risk, but further research will target these important questions," explained Diedre Tobias, SCD.
The present study was published in the journal Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine.