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Improvements in metabolite-profiling techniques are providing increased breadth of coverage of the human metabolome and may highlight biomarkers and pathways in common diseases such as diabetes. Using a metabolomics platform that analyzes intermediary organic acids, purines, pyrimidines, and other compounds, we performed a nested case-control study of 188 individuals who developed diabetes and 188 propensity-matched controls from 2,422 normoglycemic participants followed for 12 years in the Framingham Heart Study. The metabolite 2-aminoadipic acid (2-AAA) was most strongly associated with the risk of developing diabetes. Individuals with 2-AAA concentrations in the top quartile had greater than a 4-fold risk of developing diabetes. Levels of 2-AAA were not well correlated with other metabolite biomarkers of diabetes, such as branched chain amino acids and aromatic amino acids, suggesting they report on a distinct pathophysiological pathway. In experimental studies, administration of 2-AAA lowered fasting plasma glucose levels in mice fed both standard chow and high-fat diets. Further, 2-AAA treatment enhanced insulin secretion from a pancreatic β cell line as well as murine and human islets. These data highlight a metabolite not previously associated with diabetes risk that is increased up to 12 years before the onset of overt disease. Our findings suggest that 2-AAA is a marker of diabetes risk and a potential modulator of glucose homeostasis in humans.