Adipose tissue palmitoleic acid and obesity in humans: does it behave as a lipokine

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Meyers Primary Care Institute

Publication Date


Document Type



Adipose Tissue; Adult; Aged; Case-Control Studies; Cross-Sectional Studies; Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated; Female; Humans; Liver; Male; Middle Aged; Obesity; Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase


Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Health Services Research | Primary Care


BACKGROUND: Animal models have shown that adipose-derived palmitoleic acid may serve as a lipokine that contributes to resistance to diet-induced obesity. Studies in humans have evaluated only plasma palmitoleic acid concentrations, which reflect stearoyl-coenzyme A desaturase 1 (SCD1) activity in the liver and are associated with increased risk of obesity. These apparent opposite effects of palmitoleic acid deserve further research in humans. Because carbohydrate intake can increase hepatic SCD1 activity, it could be used as a stratifying variable to disentangle the effects of adipose tissue SCD1 compared with the effects of liver SCD1 activity on obesity.

OBJECTIVE: We examined whether the effects of adipose tissue palmitoleic acid and SCD1 activity were associated with decreased obesity prevalence and whether this association was modified by carbohydrate intake.

DESIGN: Prevalence ratios (PRs) of obesity [body mass index (in kg/m(2)) > 30] were examined in a cross-sectional study in 1926 adults in Costa Rica. Two desaturation indexes (16:1/16:0 and 18:1/18:0) were used as surrogate measures of adipose tissue SCD1 activity.

RESULTS: We observed a positive association between adipose tissue palmitoleic acid concentrations and obesity (PR for lowest compared with highest quintiles of palmitoleic acid: 2.27; 95% CI: 1.52, 3.38; P for trend < 0.0001). A significant association was also observed between obesity and adipose desaturation indexes. The association between adipose tissue palmitoleic acid concentrations and obesity was attenuated in persons with low carbohydrate intake.

CONCLUSIONS: There is no direct evidence that adipose tissue palmitoleic acid behaves as a lipokine to reduce obesity occurrence in humans. However, the attenuation of the association by low carbohydrate intake warrants further research on adipose-derived palmitoleic acid and obesity risk.


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DOI of Published Version



Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jan;93(1):186-91. Epub 2010 Nov 17. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The American journal of clinical nutrition

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID