Bilirubin levels in obese humans and rodents have been shown to be lower than in their lean counterparts. Some studies have proposed that the glucuronyl UGT1A1 enzyme that clears bilirubin from the blood increases in the liver with obesity. UGT1A1 clearance of bilirubin allows more conjugated bilirubin to enter the intestine, where it is catabolized into urobilin, which can be then absorbed via the hepatic portal vein. We hypothesized that when bilirubin levels are decreased, the urobilin increases in the plasma of obese humans, as compared to lean humans. To test this, we measured plasma levels of bilirubin and urobilin, body mass index (BMI), adiposity, blood glucose and insulin, and HOMA IR in a small cohort of obese and lean men and women. We found that bilirubin levels negatively correlated with BMI and adiposity in obese men and women, as compared to their lean counterparts. Contrarily, urobilin levels were positively associated with adiposity and BMI. Only obese women were found to be insulin resistant based on significantly higher HOMA IR, as compared to lean women. The urobilin levels were positively associated with HOMA IR in both groups, but women had a stronger linear correlation. These studies indicate that plasma urobilin levels are associated with obesity and its comorbidities, such as insulin resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • BMI
  • BVRA
  • HO-1
  • UGT1A1
  • bilirubin
  • blood glucose
  • insulin resistance
  • obesity
  • urobilin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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