Alanine aminotransferase and risk of the metabolic syndrome: a linear dose-response relationship

Setor K Kunutsor, Dorothy Seddoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Elevated baseline circulating alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level has been demonstrated to be associated with an increased risk of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), but the nature of the dose-response relationship is uncertain.

METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published prospective cohort studies to characterize in detail the nature of the dose-response relationship between baseline ALT level and risk of incident MetS in the general population. Relevant studies were identified in a literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science up to December 2013. Prospective studies in which investigators reported relative risks (RRs) of MetS for 3 or more categories of ALT levels were eligible. A potential nonlinear relationship between ALT levels and MetS was examined using restricted cubic splines.

RESULTS: Of the 489 studies reviewed, relevant data were available on 29,815 non-overlapping participants comprising 2,125 incident MetS events from five prospective cohort studies. There was evidence of a linear association (P for nonlinearity=0.38) between ALT level and risk of MetS, characterised by a graded increase in MetS risk at ALT levels 6-40 U/L. The risk of MetS increased by 14% for every 5 U/L increment in circulating ALT level (95% CI: 12-17%). Evidence was lacking of heterogeneity and publication bias among the contributing studies.

CONCLUSIONS: Baseline ALT level is associated with risk of the MetS in a linear dose-response manner. Studies are needed to determine whether the association represents a causal relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e96068
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome X
  • Risk Factors

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