Intra-individual variation of plasma trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), betaine and choline over 1 year

T. Kuhn, S. Rohrmann, D. Sookthai, T. Johnson, V. Katzke, R. Kaaks, A. von Eckardstein, D. Muller

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Circulating trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) has been implicated in the development of cardiovascular and chronic kidney diseases (CKD). However, while higher TMAO levels have been associated with increased risks of cardiovascular or renal events in first prospective studies, it remained unclear how much plasma TMAO concentrations vary over time. Methods: We measured fasting plasma levels of TMAO and two of its precursors, betaine and choline by LC-MS, in two samples of 100 participants of the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heidelberg study (age range: 47–80 years, 50% female) that were collected 1 year apart, and assessed their intra-individual variation by Spearman’s correlation coefficients (ρ). Results: Correlations of metabolite concentrations over 1 year were at ρ=0.29 (p=0.003) for TMAO, ρ=0.81 (p<0.001) for betaine, and ρ=0.61 (p<0.001) for choline. Plasma levels of TMAO were not significantly associated with food intake, lifestyle factors, or routine biochemistry parameters such as C-reactive protein (CRP), low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, or creatinine. Conclusions: In contrast to fasting plasma concentrations of betaine and choline, concentrations of TMAO were more strongly affected by intra-individual variation over 1 year in adults from the general population. The modest correlation of TMAO levels over time should be considered when interpreting associations between TMAO levels and disease endpoints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-268
JournalClin Chem Lab Med
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2016


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