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J Anim Sci. 2004 Mar;82(3):916-24.

Role of fatty acids in adipocyte growth and development.

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Animal and Dairy Science Department, University of Georgia, Athens 30602, USA.


Fat is typically added to diets as a source of energy. The alternative aspects considered here are the use of specific fats to alter the fatty acid profile of adipose tissue toward creation of value-added products and the potential for individual fatty acids to alter gene expression and control adipose tissue development. Emphasis is placed on the omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, and on CLA. The most common association of fatty acids with adipose tissue is related to their storage as triglycerides in mature adipocytes and the consequences of excess accumulation in obesity. Fatty acids and their derivatives also can have hormone-like effects and have been be shown to regulate gene expression in preadipocytes, which ultimately effects their proliferation and differentiation. Long-chain, saturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to regulate transcription factors, such as CCAAT/enhancer binding protein, peroxisome proliferator activated receptor, and other adipose-specific genes, very early in adipocyte development. These effects have the potential to affect fat cell number at maturity. Specifically, there is evidence that the fatty acids in fish oil, such as docosahexaenoic and eicosopentaenoic acids, and fatty acids in the CLA series, decrease preadipocyte proliferation in cell lines and reduce adiposity in rodents. There is little direct evidence of the ability of fatty acids to manipulate adipocyte development in non-rodent species. The genetic, nutritional, and pharmacological manipulation of adipose tissue in meat animals has long been of interest to animal scientists. An understanding of the ability of fatty acids to regulate factors such as adipocyte size and number, particularly in meat animals, would be of great interest. The evidence for regulatory roles of fatty acids in development from rodent and in vitro studies and their potential application to meat animals are reviewed.

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