Microbiota-dependent metabolite trimethylamine n-oxide and coronary artery calcium in the coronary artery risk development in young adults study (CARDIA)

Katie A. Meyer*, Thomas Z. Benton, Brian J. Bennett, David R. Jacobs, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Myron D. Gross, J. Jeffrey Carr, Penny Gordon-Larsen, Steven H. Zeisel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Background-Clinical studies implicate trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO; a gut microbiota-dependent nutrient metabolite) in cardiovascular disease risk. There is a lack of population-based data on the role of TMAO in advancing early atherosclerotic disease. We tested the prospective associations between TMAO and coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT). Methods and Results-Data were from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA), a biracial cohort of US adults recruited in 1985-1986 (n=5115). We randomly sampled 817 participants (aged 33-55 years) who attended examinations in 2000-2001, 2005-2006, and 2010-2011, at which CAC was measured by computed tomography and cIMT (2005-2006) by ultrasound. TMAO was quantified using liquid chromotography mass spectrometry on plasma collected in 2000- 2001. Outcomes were incident CAC, defined as Agatston units=0 in 2000-2001 and > 0 over 10-year follow-up, CAC progression (any increase over 10-year follow-up), and continuous cIMT. Over the study period, 25% (n=184) of those free of CAC in 2000- 2001 (n=746) developed detectable CAC. In 2000-2001, median (interquartile range) TMAO was 2.6 (1.8-4.2) lmol/L. In multivariable-adjusted models, TMAO was not associated with 10-year CAC incidence (rate ratio=1.03; 95% CI: 0.71-1.52) or CAC progression (0.97; 0.68-1.38) in Poisson regression, or cIMT (beta coefficient: -0.009; -0.03 to 0.01) in linear regression, comparing the fourth to the first quartiles of TMAO. Conclusions-In this population-based study, TMAO was not associated with measures of atherosclerosis: CAC incidence, CAC progression, or cIMT. These data indicate that TMAO may not contribute significantly to advancing early atherosclerotic disease risk among healthy early-middle-aged adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere003970
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Biomarker
  • Epidemiology
  • Follow-up study
  • Risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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