BACKGROUND: Cardiac natriuretic peptides are established biomarkers in heart disease, but are also affected by body mass index (BMI). The purpose of the present study was to examine the impact of weight loss and changes in body composition following dietary intervention on plasma concentrations of the prohormones to A- and B-type natriuretic peptides (proANP and proBNP) and adrenomedullin (proADM). RESULTS: A total of 52 healthy obese subjects, 47 women and 5 men (BMI 36.5 ± 5.6 kg/m(2)) were randomised to either an intensive weight reduction programme using a combination of very low calorie diet (810 kcal/day) and conventional hypo-energetic diet (1200 kcal/day) for 52 weeks, or to a control group that was offered diet-related counselling. N-terminal proBNP (NT-proBNP), mid-regional proANP (MR-proANP) and proADM (MR-proADM) and body composition using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scanning were determined at baseline and after 52 weeks. Comparisons between groups were analysed using t-tests. Changes from the baseline within the groups were analysed with paired tests. Changes in the variables, delta (∆), were calculated as 52 weeks minus the baseline. In the intervention group, BMI decreased by almost 20% (31.6 ± 6.2 vs. 37.1 ± 6.1 kg/m(2); P <0.001) with a loss of body fat of 23.5 ± 15.5% (P < 0.001). Plasma concentrations of NT-proBNP and MR-proANP increased (from 55 ± 31 to 97 ± 55 pg/ml; P < 0.001, and from 59 ± 21 to 74 ± 26 pmol/L; P < 0.001), whereas MR-proADM decreased (from 573 ± 153 to 534 ± 173 pmol/L; P <0.001). Changes (Δ) in MR-proANP correlated with Δfat mass (r = -0.359; P = 0.011) and Δglucose (r = -0.495; P <0.001), while increases in NT-proBNP were primarily associated with reduced plasma glucose (r = -0.462; P <0.001). A modest but significant weight loss of 6% (P < 0.001) was found in the control group with no changes in plasma concentrations of NT-proBNP or MR-proANP, and a minor change in MR-proADM. CONCLUSIONS: Plasma NT-proBNP and MR-proANP concentrations increase and MR-proADM concentration decreases during weight loss, underlining the dynamic impact of BMI, body composition and glucose metabolism on these cardiovascular biomarkers.