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J Nutr Biochem. 2000 Mar;11(3):153-8.

Effect of sterols and fatty acids on growth and triglyceride accumulation in 3T3-L1 cells.

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA.


Epidemiologic studies suggest a role of dietary fat in the development of obesity. Populations that consume Western diets have a higher incidence of obesity than do those that consume a vegetarian type diet such as Asians. Because dietary fats are made up mostly of triglyceride with minor lipids such as sterols, the objective of this study was to examine the effect of different fatty acids, the main component of triglycerides, and sterols on cell growth and triglyceride accumulation in 3T3-L1 cells. These cells are being used as an in vitro model for studying obesity because upon differentiation in culture they accumulate triglycerides. Cells were seeded at 5,000 cells/cm(2) and supplemented with 0, 3, 10, or 30 microM of oleic acid, elaidic acid, or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Similarly, cells were supplemented with 0, 2, 8, or 16 microM of cholesterol, beta-sitosterol (SIT), or campesterol. Cell growth was measured by cell counting. Cellular triglycerides were measured by the Oil Red O method. In some experiments, fatty acids were combined with sterols and growth and triglyceride content were assessed as described. Both DHA and SIT had inhibitory effects on 3T3-L1 cell growth. However, SIT was more potent than DHA in this regard. The combination of SIT and oleic acid was the most potent in inhibiting cell growth and increasing cellular triglyceride content. It is concluded that cell growth and triglyceride accumulation in 3T3-L1 cells is influenced by fatty acid and sterols. When used alone, DHA and SIT inhibit cell growth. SIT was more effective in this process than was DHA. There was an interaction between fatty acids and sterols. The most effective combination inhibiting cell growth and triglyceride concentration was the combination of SIT and oleic acid. This combination reduced cell growth and increased triglyceride accumulation. These data suggest that diets rich in both monounsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols may play a role in controlling obesity.

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