Circulating trimethylamine N-oxide in association with diet and cardiometabolic biomarkers: An international pooled analysis

Jae Jeong Yang, Xiao Ou Shu, David M. Herrington, Steven C. Moore, Katie A. Meyer, Jennifer Ose, Cristina Menni, Nicholette D. Palmer, Heather Eliassen, Sei Harada, Ioanna Tzoulaki, Huilian Zhu, Demetrius Albanes, Thomas J. Wang, Wei Zheng, Hui Cai, Cornelia M. Ulrich, Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ibrahim Karaman, Myriam FornageQiuyin Cai, Charles E. Matthews, Lynne E. Wagenknecht, Paul Elliott, Robert E. Gerszten, Danxia Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a diet-derived, gut microbial-host cometabolite, has been linked to cardiometabolic diseases. However, the relations remain unclear between diet, TMAO, and cardiometabolic health in general populations from different regions and ethnicities. Objectives: To examine associations of circulating TMAO with dietary and cardiometabolic factors in a pooled analysis of 16 population-based studies from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Methods: Included were 32,166 adults (16,269 white, 13,293 Asian, 1247 Hispanic/Latino, 1236 black, and 121 others) without cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, or inflammatory bowel disease. Linear regression coefficients (β) were computed for standardized TMAO with harmonized variables. Study-specific results were combined by random-effects meta-analysis. A false discovery rate <0.10 was considered significant. Results: After adjustment for potential confounders, circulating TMAO was associated with intakes of animal protein and saturated fat (β = 0.124 and 0.058, respectively, for a 5% energy increase) and with shellfish, total fish, eggs, and red meat (β = 0.370, 0.151, 0.081, and 0.056, respectively, for a 1 serving/d increase). Plant protein and nuts showed inverse associations (β = -0.126 for a 5% energy increase from plant protein and -0.123 for a 1 serving/d increase of nuts). Although the animal protein-TMAO association was consistent across populations, fish and shellfish associations were stronger in Asians (β = 0.285 and 0.578), and egg and red meat associations were more prominent in Americans (β = 0.153 and 0.093). Besides, circulating TMAO was positively associated with creatinine (β = 0.131 SD increase in log-TMAO), homocysteine (β = 0.065), insulin (β = 0.048), glycated hemoglobin (β = 0.048), and glucose (β = 0.023), whereas it was inversely associated with HDL cholesterol (β = -0.047) and blood pressure (β = -0.030). Each TMAO-biomarker association remained significant after further adjusting for creatinine and was robust in subgroup/sensitivity analyses. Conclusions: In an international, consortium-based study, animal protein was consistently associated with increased circulating TMAO, whereas TMAO associations with fish, shellfish, eggs, and red meat varied among populations. The adverse associations of TMAO with certain cardiometabolic biomarkers, independent of renal function, warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1156
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Consortium of Metabolomics Studies
  • biomarker
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diet
  • trimethylamine N-oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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