48. Inflammatory Signatures Distinguish Metabolic Health in African American Women with Obesity

Denis, G. et al. 2018

Among all U.S. racial and ethnic categories, elevated body mass index is a leading cause

of preventable death, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and several cancers. African American women with obesity have higher risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes compared to U.S. whites.

In the body, obesity-driven Type 2 diabetes creates inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease and cancers, such as breast cancer in post-menopausal women and colon cancer. In African American women, this risk is higher than for white women but not well understood.

For this study, researchers focused on subjects’ metabolic health, or all of the chemical processes in the body, to understand the effects of “cytokines,” small proteins that work with the immune system to control the growth of inflammation.


Researchers analyzed 64 circulating cytokines and chemokines in plasma of 120 African American women enrolled in the Black Women's Health Study and 39 donors from the Komen Tissue Bank. They looked at cytokines and other chemicals associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. They compared these results to those of obese women without those diseases as well as to lean women without those diseases.


The study generated six inflammation “signatures” of 16 different cytokines to identify similarities and differences, and to assign each sample an inflammation score. These signatures differed significantly in women who had obesity, with or without Type 2 diabetes.

Why this study is important:

This study suggests that body mass index alone is not a good enough measure of disease risks for African American women with obesity. Instead, this study suggests using a blood profile that would assess inflammatory cytokines and metabolism to determine risk for disease. Prevention and treatment tools would also be more personalized based on this kind of assessment.