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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Oct;72(4):905-11.

Differential oxidation of individual dietary fatty acids in humans.

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Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70808-4124, USA.



Dietary fatty acids that are more prone to oxidation than to storage may be less likely to lead to obesity.


The aim of this study was to determine the effect of chain length, degree of unsaturation, and stereoisomeric effects of unsaturation on the oxidation of individual fatty acids in normal-weight men.


Fatty acid oxidation was examined in men consuming a weight-maintenance diet containing 40% of energy as fat. After consuming the diet for 1 wk, subjects were fed fatty acids labeled with (13)C in the methyl or carboxyl position (10 mg/kg body wt). The fatty acids fed in random order were laurate, palmitate, stearate, oleate, elaidate (the trans isomer of oleate), linoleate, and linolenate blended in a hot liquid meal. Breath samples were collected for the next 9 h and the oxidation of each fatty acid was assessed by examining liberated (13)CO(2) in breath.


Cumulative oxidation over the 9-h test ranged from a high of 41% of the dose for laurate to a low of 13% of the dose for stearate. Of the 18-carbon fatty acids, linolenate was the most highly oxidized and linoleate appeared to be somewhat conserved. (13)C recovery in breath from the methyl-labeled fatty acids was approximately 30% less than that from the carboxyl-labeled fatty acids.


In summary, lauric acid is highly oxidized, whereas the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are fairly well oxidized. Oxidation of the long-chain, saturated fatty acids decreases with increasing carbon number.

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