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We recently reported a strong positive association of plasma total cysteine (tCys) with fat mass in over 5,000 subjects. As gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) enzyme increases cysteine availability by catalyzing glutathione breakdown and is positively associated with BMI and adiposity, we hypothesized that GGT might explain the association of tCys with adiposity. To study whether the associations of tCys and serum GGT with BMI and obesity were interrelated we conducted a cross-sectional study using data from 1,550 subjects recruited from nine European countries in the COMAC project. Multiple linear and logistic regression models and concentration-response curves were used. In age and sex-adjusted analyses, tCys showed strong positive associations with BMI (partial r = 0.19, P < 0.001), and obesity (odds ratio (OR) for 4th vs. 1st tCys quartile: 2.8; 95% confidence interval: 1.6-5.0, P < 0.001), both of which remained robust after adjustment for GGT and other metabolic and lifestyle confounders. Serum GGT was also a positive predictor of BMI (partial r = 0.17, P < 0.001) and obesity (OR for 4th vs. 1st GGT quartile: 4.8; 95% confidence interval: 2.5-9.2, P < 0.001), independent of tCys. However, the associations of GGT with BMI and obesity were weakened by adjustment for obesity-related factors such as serum lipids and blood pressure. These results indicate that tCys is a strong positive predictor of BMI and obesity, independent of GGT and other obesity-related factors. We also suggest that the association of serum GGT with BMI and obesity is unrelated to the role of GGT in cysteine turnover. The potential link between cysteine and fat metabolism should be further evaluated.

Original publication




Journal article


Obesity (Silver Spring)

Publication Date





1435 - 1440


Adult, Body Mass Index, Cross-Sectional Studies, Cysteine, Female, Humans, Linear Models, Logistic Models, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Predictive Value of Tests, Risk Factors, gamma-Glutamyltransferase