Ceramides and phospholipids are downregulated with liraglutide treatment: results from the LiraFlame randomized controlled trial

Emilie H Zobel, Asger Wretlind, Rasmus S Ripa, Viktor Rotbain Curovic, Bernt J von Scholten, Tommi Suvitaival, Tine W Hansen, Andreas Kjær, Cristina Legido-Quigley, Peter Rossing

14 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: Treatment with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in persons living with type 2 diabetes, however the mechanisms explaining this cardiovascular benefit are still debated. We investigated changes in the plasma lipidome following treatment with the GLP-1 RA liraglutide.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, we randomized 102 persons with type 2 diabetes to liraglutide or placebo for 26 weeks. Fasting blood plasma was collected at baseline and at end-of-treatment. The lipidome was measured using liquid-chromatography-coupled mass-spectrometry as a secondary end point in the study. Treatment response of each lipid was tested with lipid-specific linear mixed-effect models comparing liraglutide with placebo. Bonferroni p<7.1e-03 was employed. The independence of the findings from clinical covariates was evaluated with adjustment for body mass index, HbA1c, fasting status, lipid-lowering treatment and change in lipid-lowering treatment during the trial.

RESULTS: In total, 260 lipids were identified covering 11 lipid families. We observed significant decreases following liraglutide treatment compared with placebo in 21 lipids (p<7.1e-03) from the following lipid families: ceramides, hexocyl-ceramides, phosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylethanolamines and triglycerides. We confirmed these findings in adjusted models (p≤0.01). In the liraglutide-treated group, the individual lipids were reduced in the range of 14%-61% from baseline level, compared with 19% decrease to 27% increase from baseline level in the placebo group.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with placebo, liraglutide treatment led to a significant downregulation in ceramides, phospholipids and triglycerides, which all are linked to higher risk of CVD. These findings were independent of relevant clinical covariates. Our findings are hypothesis generating and shed light on the biological mechanisms underlying the cardiovascular benefits observed with GLP-1 RAs in outcome studies, and further strengthen the evidence base for recommending GLP-1 RAs to prevent CVD in type 2 diabetes.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002395
JournalBMJ open diabetes research & care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • diabetes mellitus
  • glucagon-like peptide 1
  • lipids
  • type 2


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