Fasting blood biomarker alpha-hydroxybutyrate predicts risk for diabetes in new study from HDL, Inc. and University of Utah

Circulating metabolite could predict abnormalities in body's response to a 'glucose challenge' as substitute for oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

Oct 03, 2014, 11:31 ET from Health Diagnostic Laboratory

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Could a single serum biomarker predict risk for diabetes as accurately as a more complex, hours-long diagnostic procedure?

According to researchers at Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. (HDL, Inc.) and the University of Utah, the answer is "yes."  In a newly published study, the scientists found that fasting levels of the serum marker alpha-hydroxybutyrate (a-HB), measured as part of a routine blood draw, could be a valuable clinical surrogate for the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

The decades-old OGTT measures the body's ability to respond to a "glucose challenge," and can uncover impaired glucose metabolism and subsequent risk for diabetes.  However, while the OGTT has been considered a standard in the prediction of diabetes risk, it is not often used in clinical practice due to the logistical difficulty of the procedure, which can take as long as three hours to administer.

The cross-sectional study from HDL, Inc., in which 217 patients were evaluated for diabetes risk with an OGTT and a blood panel of fasting biomarkers, found that elevated levels of a-HB were strongly predictive of abnormalities in glucose regulation, even after controlling for known risk factors such as age, gender, body-mass index, fasting glucose, and hemoglobin A1c. Remarkably, the research showed that a-HB was able to predict an impaired early insulin response during the OGTT, even in patients who would be considered low risk by conventional measures – thus offering a window for early lifestyle interventions that may delay or even halt disease progression.

"Our findings suggest that a-HB may have broad application as a rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive tool for detecting states of subclinical hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, and pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction indicative of increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said Maciek Sasinowski, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President of Clinical Affairs at HDL, Inc. and co-author of the study. 

The research paper, "Serum alpha-hydroxybutyrate (a-HB) predicts elevated 1-hour glucose levels and early-phase beta-cell dysfunction during OGTT," was recently published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, the new joint venture between the British Medical Journal and the American Diabetes Association, and can be found highlighted as the current "Editor's Choice" at the journal's website:

The results are the latest to emerge from the comprehensive research effort at HDL, Inc. aimed at reducing the significant morbidity and mortality due to cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disease.  Notably, a-HB is a key component of a broad, multimarker panel developed by HDL, Inc. that was recently shown to identify many patients with hidden risk for diabetes who were classified as normoglycemic by traditional tests.[i]

About Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc.

Founded in 2008, Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. (HDL, Inc.) is a leader in health management offering a comprehensive test menu of biomarkers of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and related chronic diseases. HDL, Inc.'s systematic approach identifies factors contributing to disease and provides a basis for effective treatment, allowing physicians to more effectively manage their patients and individuals to take steps to improve their health. Individuals may receive a personalized overview of their risk factors along with intensive counseling from expert Clinical Health Consultants, improving compliance and enhancing satisfaction. HDL, Inc. also offers comprehensive testing and wellness services to employers and is a partner for value-based, integrated care models and health systems. HDL, Inc. is a CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited laboratory. For more information, visit, and make HDL, Inc. part of your digital lifestyle at and on Twitter @hdltweets.

[i] Varvel SA, Voros S, et al. Comprehensive Biomarker Testing of Glycemia, Insulin Resistance, and Beta Cell Function Has Greater Sensitivity to Detect Diabetes Risk Than Fasting Glucose and HbA1c and Is Associated with Improved Glycemic Control in Clinical Practice. J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2014;7(6):597-606.

SOURCE Health Diagnostic Laboratory