Adiponectin levels, food choices, and genetics

Adiponectin, a hormone discovered in the 1990’s, is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue.  It is an anti-inflammatory protein, protective against the effects of low-grade inflammation that are associated with obesity.

Although it is made in adipose tissue, those who have more fat tissue usually have lower adiponectin levels.  It is thought that the lower adiponectin levels (and thus high inflammation) are a cause of chronic issues associated with obesity.[ref]

Low levels of adiponectin have been linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  [ref]

ADIPOQ gene: responsible for adiponectin creation

Some polymorphisms increase adiponectin levels, leading to lower risk of insulin resistance,  and some polymorphisms decrease adiponectin levels which leads to a higher risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.  Diet and ethnicity also seem to play a role in how these polymorphisms affect a person.

rs17300539 (T is the minor allele,  v.4 and v.5)

  • T allele= lower weight, BMI and higher adiponectin levels; benefits from a monounsaturated fat diet and MUFA > 13% cuts risk of obesity in half [ref] [ref]

rs1501299 (T is the minor allele, v.4 and v.5)

  • T allele is associated with higher adiponectin levels in some populations[ref]  and lower adiponectin levels in other populations[ref][ref] This may be related to the amount of fiber in the diet (see below).  In general, the T allele is thought to have increased adiponectin signaling. This is protective against heart disease. [ref]
  • G/G homozygotes  are reported as having lower adiponectin levels in most populations [ref] but diet comes into play here: G/G homozygotes have higher adiponectin levels compared to T carriers when eating a low fiber diet. [ref]   G allele is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer [ref] breast cancer, which is associated with low adiponectin signaling[ref]

rs266729 (C is the minor allele, v.4 and v.5)

  • C/C homozygous (23andMe orientation) has lower adiponectin levels  [ref] [ref] [ref]
  • For Caucasian men with G/G (23andMe orientation, more common alleles), switching from a saturated fat rich diet to either a carbohydrate rich diet or a monounsaturated fat rich diet caused plasma glucose concentrations to decrease. [ref]

rs2241766 (G is the minor allele, v.4 and v.5)

  • G allele is associated with higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Asian populations [ref]

rs17366568 (G is the minor allele, v.4 and v.5)

  • G allele is associated with lower serum adiponectin levels in white women but not black women [ref]

What works and doesn’t work:

Increasing adiponectin levels seems like a good idea since low levels of adiponectin are a risk factor for heart disease.  But it isn’t absolutely clear that manipulating adiponectin levels will cause weight loss.

  • Orlistat (Alli) increases adiponectin levels [ref]
  • Both blueberry juice and mulberry juice increased adiponectin levels (in mice) [ref]
  • In mice, Platycodon grandiflorus root extract (Korean medicinal food) improved insulin sensitivity to activation of PPARG which upregulates adiponectin [ref]

Here are a few things that have been tested and found not to increase adiponectin levels:

  • Fish oil doesn’t seem to have much effect on adiponectin levels.
  • Green tea extract doesn’t affect adiponectin levels [ref]


Author Information:   Debbie Moon
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. She holds a Master of Science in Biological Sciences from Clemson University and an undergraduate degree in engineering from Colorado School of Mines. Debbie is a science communicator who is passionate about explaining evidence-based health information. Her goal with Genetic Lifehacks is to bridge the gap between the research hidden in scientific journals and everyone's ability to use that information. To contact Debbie, visit the contact page.