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Diverse physiological effects of long-chain saturated fatty acids: implications for cardiovascular disease

Flock, Michael R.; Kris-Etherton, Penny M.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: March 2013 - Volume 16 - Issue 2 - p 133–140
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328359e6ac
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review The purpose of this review is to discuss the metabolism of long-chain saturated fatty acids and the ensuing effects on an array of metabolic events.

Recent findings Individual long-chain saturated fatty acids exhibit unique biological properties. Dietary saturated fat absorption varies depending on chain-length and the associated food matrix. The in-vivo metabolism of saturated fatty acids varies depending on the individual fatty acid and the nutritional state of the individual. A variety of fatty acid metabolites are formed, each with their own unique structure and properties that warrant further research. Replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fatty acids improves the blood lipid profile and reduces cardiovascular disease risk, although the benefits depend on the specific saturated fatty acid(s) being replaced.

Summary Acknowledging the complexity of saturated fatty acid metabolism and associated metabolic events is important when assessing their effects on cardiovascular disease risk. Investigating the biological effects of saturated fatty acids will advance our understanding of how they affect cardiovascular disease risk.

Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Department of Nutritional Sciences 110 Chandlee Lab Penn State University University Park, PA 16802, USA. Tel: +1 814 863 2923; fax: +1 814 863 6103; e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.