Breathprints of childhood obesity: changes in volatile organic compounds in obese children compared with lean controls

Alkhouri N, Eng K, Cikach F, Patel N, Yan C, Brindle A, Rome E, Hanouneh I, Grove D, Lopez R, Hazen SL, Dweik RA. Pediatr Obes. 2015 Feb;10(1):23-9. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2014.221.x. PMID: 24677760

The objective of this study was to investigate changes in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath in overweight/obese children compared with their lean counterparts.

Single exhaled breath was collected and analyzed per protocol using selective ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS).

Sixty overweight/obese children and 55 lean controls were included. Compared with the lean group, the obese group was significantly older (14.1 ± 2.8 vs. 12.1 ± 3.0 years), taller (164.8 ± 10.9 vs. 153.3 ± 17.1 cm) and more likely to be Caucasian (60% vs. 35.2%); P < 0.05 for all. A comparison of the SIFT-MS results of the obese group with the lean group revealed differences in concentration of more than 50 compounds. A panel of four VOCs can identify the presence of overweight/obesity with excellent accuracy. Further analysis revealed that breath isoprene, 1-decene, 1-octene, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide were significantly higher in the obese group compared with the lean group (P value < 0.01 for all).

Obese children have a unique pattern of exhaled VOCs. Changes in VOCs observed in this study may help to gain insight into pathophysiological processes and pathways leading to the development of childhood obesity.