Association between plasma phospholipid saturated fatty acids and metabolic markers of lipid, hepatic, inflammation and glycaemic pathways in eight European countries: A cross-sectional analysis in the EPIC-InterAct study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Accumulating evidence suggests that individual circulating saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are heterogeneous in their associations with cardio-metabolic diseases, but evidence about associations of SFAs with metabolic markers of different pathogenic pathways is limited. We aimed to examine the associations between plasma phospholipid SFAs and the metabolic markers of lipid, hepatic, glycaemic and inflammation pathways. Methods: We measured nine individual plasma phospholipid SFAs and derived three SFA groups (odd-chain: C15:0 + C17:0, even-chain: C14:0 + C16:0 + C18:0, and very-long-chain: C20:0 + C22:0 + C23:0 + C24:0) in individuals from the subcohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-InterAct case-cohort study across eight European countries. Using linear regression in 15,919 subcohort members, adjusted for potential confounders and corrected for multiple testing, we examined cross-sectional associations of SFAs with 13 metabolic markers. Multiplicative interactions of the three SFA groups with pre-specified factors, including body mass index (BMI) and alcohol consumption, were tested. Results: Higher levels of odd-chain SFA group were associated with lower levels of major lipids (total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides, apolipoprotein A-1 (ApoA1), apolipoprotein B (ApoB)) and hepatic markers (alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)). Higher even-chain SFA group levels were associated with higher levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), TC/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio, triglycerides, ApoB, ApoB/A1 ratio, ALT, AST, GGT and CRP, and lower levels of HDL-C and ApoA1. Very-long-chain SFA group levels showed inverse associations with triglycerides, ApoA1 and GGT, and positive associations with TC, LDL-C, TC/HDL-C, ApoB and ApoB/A1. Associations were generally stronger at higher levels of BMI or alcohol consumption. Conclusions: Subtypes of SFAs are associated in a differential way with metabolic markers of lipid metabolism, liver function and chronic inflammation, suggesting that odd-chain SFAs are associated with lower metabolic risk and even-chain SFAs with adverse metabolic risk, whereas mixed findings were obtained for very-long-chain SFAs. The clinical and biochemical implications of these findings may vary by adiposity and alcohol intake.


  • Ju Sheng Zheng
  • Stephen J. Sharp
  • Fumiaki Imamura
  • Albert Koulman
  • Matthias B. Schulze
  • Zheng Ye
  • Jules Griffin
  • Marcela Guevara
  • José María Huerta
  • Janine Kröger
  • Ivonne Sluijs
  • Antonio Agudo
  • Aurelio Barricarte
  • Heiner Boeing
  • Sandra Colorado-Yohar
  • Courtney Dow
  • Miren Dorronsoro
  • Pia T. Dinesen
  • Guy Fagherazzi
  • Edith J.M. Feskens
  • Tilman Kühn
  • Verena Andrea Katzke
  • Timothy J. Key
  • Kay Tee Khaw
  • Maria Santucci de Magistris
  • Francesca Romana Mancini
  • Elena Molina-Portillo
  • Anja Olsen
  • Kim Overvad
  • Domenico Palli
  • Jose Ramón Quirós
  • Olov Rolandsson
  • Fulvio Ricceri
  • Annemieke M.W. Spijkerman
  • Nadia Slimani
  • Giovanna Tagliabue
  • Anne Tjonneland
  • Rosario Tumino
  • Yvonne T. van der Schouw
  • Claudia Langenberg
  • Elio Riboli
  • Nita G. Forouhi
  • Nicholas J. Wareham
External organisations
  • University of Cambridge
  • German Institute of Human Nutrition
  • Health Research Institute of Navarra (IDISNA)
  • CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP)
  • Murcia Regional Health Council
  • University Medical Center Utrecht
  • Bellvitge University Hospital-IDIBELL
  • University of Antioquia
  • Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP)
  • University of Paris-Sud
  • Stabilite genetique et oncogenese
  • Public Health Division of Gipuzkoa
  • Aalborg University
  • Umeå University
  • Wageningen University
  • German Cancer Research Centre
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Naples Federico II
  • University of Granada
  • Danish Cancer Society Research Center
  • Aarhus University
  • Cancer Research and Prevention Institute (ISPO)
  • Public Health Directorate
  • Citta' della Salute e della Scienza Hospital-University of Turin
  • National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization
  • Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori
  • Civic and M.P Arezzo Hospital
  • Imperial College London
  • MRC Human Nutrition Research
  • NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • Even-chain, Glycaemic, Hepatic, Inflammation, Lipids, Metabolic markers, Odd-chain, Saturated fatty acids, Very-long-chain
Original languageEnglish
Article number203
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov 17
Publication categoryResearch