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Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):436-45. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.070557. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Dietary intake of palmitate and oleate has broad impact on systemic and tissue lipid profiles in humans.

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Departments of Pediatrics (CLK), Medicine (CLK and KC), and Medical Biostatistics (JYB), University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, and the Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center (RS, JB, OI, TRK, and DMM) and Departments of Medicine (TRK and DMM) and Pharmacology and Cancer Biology (DMM), Duke University, Durham, NC.



Epidemiologic evidence has suggested that diets with a high ratio of palmitic acid (PA) to oleic acid (OA) increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).


To gain additional insights into the relative effect of dietary fatty acids and their metabolism on CVD risk, we sought to identify a metabolomic signature that tracks with diet-induced changes in blood lipid concentrations and whole-body fat oxidation.


We applied comprehensive metabolomic profiling tools to biological specimens collected from 18 healthy adults enrolled in a crossover trial that compared a 3-wk high-palmitic acid (HPA) with a low-palmitic acid and high-oleic acid (HOA) diet.


A principal components analysis of the data set including 329 variables measured in 15 subjects in the fasted state identified one factor, the principal components analysis factor in the fasted state (PCF1-Fasted), which was heavily weighted by the PA:OA ratio of serum and muscle lipids, that was affected by diet (P < 0.0001; HPA greater than HOA). One other factor, the additional principal components analysis factor in the fasted state (PCF2-Fasted), reflected a wide range of acylcarnitines and was affected by diet in women only (P = 0.0198; HPA greater than HOA). HOA lowered the ratio of serum low-density lipoprotein to high-density lipoprotein (LDL:HDL) in men and women, and adjustment for the PCF1-Fasted abolished the effect. In women only, adjustment for the PCF2-Fasted eliminated the HOA-diet effect on serum total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations. The respiratory exchange ratio in the fasted state was lower with the HPA diet (P = 0.04), and the diet effect was eliminated after adjustment for the PCF1-Fasted. The messenger RNA expression of the cholesterol regulatory gene insulin-induced gene-1 was higher with the HOA diet (P = 0.008).


These results suggest that replacing dietary PA with OA reduces the blood LDL concentration and whole-body fat oxidation by modifying the saturation index of circulating and tissue lipids. In women, these effects are also associated with a higher production and accumulation of acylcarnitines, possibly reflecting a shift in fat catabolism.

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