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BMC Public Health. 2019 Jun 25;19(1):818. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-7113-6.

Dietary saturated fat and low-grade inflammation modified by accelerometer-measured physical activity in adolescence: results from the GINIplus and LISA birth cohorts.

Author information

Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Epidemiology - German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764, Neuherberg, Germany.
Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, University Hospital, LMU of Munich, Munich, Germany.
Research Institute, Department of Pediatrics, Marien-Hospital Wesel, Wesel, Germany.
Department of Pediatrics, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF), Düsseldorf, Germany.
Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Inner City Clinic, University Hospital of Munich (LMU), Munich, Germany.
Allergy and Lung Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
Comprehensive Pneumology Center Munich (CPC-M), German Center for Lung Research, Munich, Germany.
Institute of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Epidemiology - German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764, Neuherberg, Germany.



Saturated fatty acids (SFA) have been reported to promote inflammation. Nevertheless, evidence linking dietary SFA and low-grade inflammation in adolescents is scarce and inconsistent. The modulatory role of physical activity (PA) on fat metabolism and inflammation may provide a potential explanation. Thus, we assessed the association of dietary SFA with high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of low-grade inflammation, in 15-year-olds, and evaluated possible interactions between dietary SFA and different levels of PA.


Children participating in the 15-year follow-ups of the GINIplus and LISA German birth cohort studies were included (N = 824). SFA intake was estimated by means of a food frequency questionnaire and PA recorded by accelerometers. Average daily minutes of PA were classified into "sedentary", "light" and "moderate-to-vigorous" (MVPA), using Freedson's cut-offs. HsCRP concentrations were measured in serum and categorized into 3 sex-specific levels (below detection limit (I), above 75th percentile (III), in between (II)). Sex-stratified cross-sectional associations between SFA and hsCRP were assessed using multinomial logistic regression, adjusting for potential confounders. Interaction terms were included between SFA and the different PA levels; and if significant interactions were observed, analyses stratified by tertiles of the relevant PA levels were performed. Relative risk ratios (RRR) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) were presented for a 1% increase in SFA.


An inverse association was observed between SFA intake and hsCRP (II vs. I) in males (RRR = 0.85 [95%CI = 0.76;0.96], p = 0.008), whereas no significant association was observed in females. A significant interaction was observed with "sedentary" and "light" PA but not with MVPA in both sexes (p < 0.05). Stratified analyses indicated a significant inverse association between SFA and medium hsCRP levels in males in the highest light PA tertile (hsCRP II vs. I: 0.67 [0.517;0.858], p = 0.002).


Our findings do not support a detrimental role of dietary SFA in low-grade inflammation among adolescents. In males, higher dietary SFA was associated with lower hsCRP, although this should be interpreted in the context of possibly correlated nutrients. Children spending the most time in light PA drove the observed inverse association, suggesting a synergistic effect of SFA and lifestyle PA in the resultant inflammatory response.


Accelerometer; Adolescents; Dietary intake; Epidemiology; Low-grade inflammation; Physical activity; Saturated fat

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