Dietary fatty acid composition and metabolic syndrome: a review

  • Mahdieh Nourmohammdi Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Nutrition Sciences and Food Technology, National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Hanieh-Sadat Ejtahed Obesity Research Center, Nutrition and Endocrine Research Center, Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Parvin Mirmiran Obesity Research Center, Nutrition and Endocrine Research Center, Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Azita Hekmatdoost Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Nutrition Sciences and Food Technology, National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
Keywords: Dietary fat, Dyslipidemia, Fatty acid, Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome


Diet as a part of lifestyle plays a pivotal role in the development of metabolic syndrome and its consequences. Fatty acid composition as a part of dietary intake affects blood fatty acid concentrations, insulin sensitivity and different metabolic pathways associated with the occurrence and consequences of the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this review is to evaluate the effects of dietary fatty acid composition on metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its components. A search was conducted through PubMed, Google scholar and Science Direct using keywords including metabolic syndrome, MetS, diet, fatty acid composition, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega3, omega6 and fish oil, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, obesity and blood glucose. We included English articles published from 1995 to 2014. Based on the results of the studies reviewed, intake of saturated fatty acids by increasing LDL-C, total cholesterol and oxidized LDL and arterial stiffness was associated with increased insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. In contrast, supplements containing omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids such as fish and rapeseed oil can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and its consequences risk factors by lowering triglycerides,  cholesterol,  inflammation  and  oxidative  stress.  Low  intake  of saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids with increased intake of omega-3  polyunsaturated  fatty  acids  may  be  useful  in  reducing  the  risk  of metabolic syndrome and its consequences.


Ramli AS, Daher AM, Nor-Ashikin MN, et al. JIS definition identified more Malaysian adults with metabolic syndrome compared to the NCEP-ATP III and IDF criteria. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:760963.

Bigna JJ, Bahebeck J, Sobngwi E, Mbanya JC.Metabolic syndrome for sub-Saharan Africans diabetes with peripheral arterial disease: a case- control study. BMC Res Notes. 2014; 7:104.

Rezaianzadeh A, Namayandeh SM, Sadr SM.National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III Versus International Diabetic Federation Definition of Metabolic Syndrome, Which One is Associated with Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Artery Disease? Int J Prev Med.2012; 3:552-8.

Yadav D, Mahajan S, Subramanian SK, Bisen PS, Chung CH, Prasad GB. Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in type 2 diabetes mellitus using NCEP- ATPIII, IDF and WHO definition and its agreement in Gwalior Chambal region of Central India. Glob J Health Sci. 2013; 5:142-55.

Root M, Collier SR, Zwetsloot KA, West KL, McGinn MC. A randomized trial of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on arterial health, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome in a young healthy population. Nutr J. 2013; 12:40.

Mirmiran P, Hosseinpour-Niazi S, Naderi Z, Bahadoran Z, Sadeghi M, Azizi F. Association between interaction and ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and the metabolic syndrome in adults. Nutrition. 2012;28:856-63.

Palomaki A, Pohjantahti-Maaroos H, Wallenius M, et al. Effects of dietary cold-pressed turnip rapeseed oil and butter on serum lipids, oxidized LDL and arterial elasticity in men with metabolic syndrome. Lipids Health Dis. 2010; 9:137.

Das M, Pal S, Ghosh A. Association of metabolic syndrome with obesity measures, metabolic profiles, and intake of dietary fatty acids in people of Asian Indian origin. J Cardiovasc Dis Res.2010; 1:130-5.

Hekmatdoost A, Mirmiran P, Hosseini-Esfahani F, Azizi F. Dietary fatty acid composition and metabolic syndrome in Tehranian adults. Nutrition. 2011; 27:1002-7.

Mirmiran P, Mirbolooki M, Heydarian P, Salehi P, Azizi F. Intrafamilial associations of lipid profiles and the role of nutrition: the Tehran lipid and glucose study. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008; 52:68- 73.

Gonzalez-Muniesa P, Marrades MP, Martinez JA, Moreno-Aliaga MJ. Differential proinflammatory and oxidative stress response and vulnerability to metabolic syndrome in habitual high-fat young male consumers putatively predisposed by their genetic background. Int J Mol Sci. 2013;14:17238-55.

Perez-Martinez P, Delgado-Lista J, Garcia-Rios A, et al. Calpain-10 interacts with plasma saturated fatty acid concentrations to influence insulin resistance in individuals with the metabolic syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93:1136-41.

Kawashima A, Sugawara S, Okita M, et al.Plasma fatty acid composition, estimated desaturase activities, and intakes of energy and nutrient in Japanese men with abdominal obesity or metabolic syndrome. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009; 55:400-6.

Lee S, Do HJ, Kang SM, Chung JH, Park E, Shin MJ. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid composition and estimated desaturase activity in heart failure patients with metabolic syndrome. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2012; 51:150-5.

Sartorius T, Ketterer C, Kullmann S, et al.Monounsaturated fatty acids prevent the aversive effects of obesity on locomotion, brain activity, and sleep behavior. Diabetes. 2012; 61:1669-79.

Zhang Y, Kent JW, Lee A, et al. Fatty acid binding protein 3 (fabp3) is associated with insulin, lipids and cardiovascular phenotypes of the metabolic syndrome through epigenetic modifications in a Northern European family population. BMC Med Genomics. 2013; 6:9.

Sears B, Ricordi C. Role of fatty acids and polyphenols in inflammatory gene transcription and their impact on obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012;16:1137-54.

Lands B. Consequences of essential fatty acids.Nutrients. 2012; 4:1338-57.19. White B. Dietary fatty acids. Am Fam Physician.2009; 80:345-50.

Simopoulos AP. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and high fructose intake in the development of metabolic syndrome, brain metabolic abnormalities, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Nutrients. 2013; 5:2901-23.

Micha R, Mozaffarian D. Trans fatty acids: effects on metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2009; 5:335-44.

Kennedy A, Martinez K, Chuang CC, LaPoint K, McIntosh M. Saturated fatty acid-mediated inflammation and insulin resistance in adipose tissue: mechanisms of action and implications. J Nutr. 2009; 139:1-4.

Funaki M. Saturated fatty acids and insulin resistance. J Med Invest. 2009; 56:88-92.

Noel SE, Newby PK, Ordovas JM, Tucker KL.

Adherence to an (n-3) fatty acid/fish intake pattern is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome among Puerto Rican adults in the Greater Boston area. J Nutr. 2010; 140:1846-54.

Poledne R. A new atherogenic effect of saturated fatty acids. Physiol Res. 2013; 62:139-43.

Oliveira Junior SA, Padovani CR, Rodrigues SA, et al. Extensive impact of saturated fatty acids on metabolic and cardiovascular profile in rats with diet-induced obesity: a canonical analysis.Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2013; 12:65.

Huang S, Rutkowsky JM, Snodgrass RG, et al.Saturated fatty acids activate TLR-mediated proinflammatory signaling pathways. J Lipid Res.2012; 53:2002-13.

Kusunoki M, Tsutsumi K, Nakayama M, et al.Relationship between serum concentrations of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids and the homeostasis model insulin resistance index in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Med Invest. 2007; 54:243-7.

Sanders TA, Lewis FJ, Goff LM, Chowienczyk PJ. SFAs do not impair endothelial function and arterial stiffness. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 98:677-83.

Walker CG, Loos RJ, Olson AD, et al. Genetic predisposition influences plasma lipids of participants on habitual diet, but not the response to reductions in dietary intake of saturated fatty acids. Atherosclerosis. 2011; 215:421-7.

Sodergren E, Gustafsson IB, Basu S, et al. A diet containing rapeseed oil-based fats does not increase lipid peroxidation in humans when compared to a diet rich in saturated fatty acids. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001; 55:922-31.

Ebbesson SO, Tejero ME, Lopez-Alvarenga JC, et al. Individual saturated fatty acids are

associated with different components of insulin resistance and glucose metabolism: the GOCADAN study. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2010; 69:344-51.

Vessby B. Dietary fat, fatty acid composition in plasma and the metabolic syndrome. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2003; 14:15-9.

Riccardi G, Giacco R, Rivellese AA. Dietary fat, insulin sensitivity and the metabolic syndrome. Clin Nutr. 2004; 23:447-56.

Shab-Bidar S, Hosseini-Esfahani F, Mirmiran P,Hosseinpour-Niazi S, Azizi F. Metabolic syndrome profiles, obesity measures and intake of dietary fatty acids in adults: Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013.

Muller H, Lindman AS, Brantsaeter AL, Pedersen JI. The serum LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio is influenced more favorably by exchanging saturated with unsaturated fat than by reducing saturated fat in the diet of women. J Nutr. 2003;133:78-83.

Fessler MB, Rudel LL, Brown JM. Toll-like receptor signaling links dietary fatty acids to the metabolic syndrome. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2009;20:379-85.

van Dijk SJ, Feskens EJ, Bos MB, et al. A saturated fatty acid-rich diet induces an obesity- linked proinflammatory gene expression profile in adipose tissue of subjects at risk of metabolic syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 90:1656-64.

Nagao K, Yanagita T. Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacol Res. 2010;61:208-12.

Corella D, Arnett DK, Tucker KL, et al. A high intake of saturated fatty acids strengthens the association between the fat mass and obesity- associated gene and BMI. J Nutr. 2011;141:2219-25.

Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Monounsaturated fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease: synopsis of the evidence available from systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Nutrients.2012; 4:1989-2007.

Miura K, Stamler J, Brown IJ, et al. Relationship of dietary monounsaturated fatty acids to blood pressure: the international study of macro/micronutrients and blood pressure. J Hypertens. 2013; 31:1144-50.

Yang ZH, Miyahara H, Iwasaki Y, Takeo J, Katayama M. Dietary supplementation with long- chain monounsaturated fatty acids attenuates obesity-related metabolic dysfunction and increases expression of PPAR gamma in adipose tissue in type 2 diabetic KK-Ay mice. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013; 10:16.

Gillingham LG, Harris-Janz S, Jones PJ. Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Lipids. 2011; 46:209-28.

Degirolamo C, Rudel LL. Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids appear not to provide cardioprotection. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2010;12:391-6.

Gill JM, Brown JC, Caslake MJ, et al. Effects of dietary monounsaturated fatty acids on lipoprotein concentrations, compositions, and subfraction distributions and on VLDL apolipoprotein B kinetics: dose-dependent effects on LDL. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78:47-56.

Egert S, Kratz M, Kannenberg F, Fobker M,Wahrburg U. Effects of high-fat and low-fat diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids on serum lipids, LDL size and indices of lipid peroxidation in healthy non-obese men and women when consumed under controlled conditions. Eur J Nutr 2011; 50:71-9.

Imamura F, Lemaitre RN, King IB, et al. Long- chain monounsaturated Fatty acids and incidence of congestive heart failure in 2 prospective cohorts. Circulation. 2013; 127:1512-21, 21e1-18.

Duda MK, O'Shea KM, Stanley WC. omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of heart failure: mechanisms and clinical potential. Cardiovasc Res. 2009; 84:33-41.

Watanabe K, Arozal W, Tanaka H, et al.Beneficial Effect of Food Substitute Containing L-Arginine, omega-3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid, and Ribonucleic Acid in Preventing or Improving Metabolic Syndrome: A Study in 15 Overweight Patients and a Study of Fatty Acid Metabolism in Animals. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009; 44:266-74.

Song J, Kwon N, Lee MH, Ko YG, Lee JH, Kim OY. Association of serum phospholipid PUFAs with cardiometabolic risk: Beneficial effect of DHA on the suppression of vascular proliferation/inflammation. Clin Biochem. 2014.

Harris WS. n-3 fatty acids and serum lipoproteins: human studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997; 65(5 Suppl):1645S-54S.

Wilkinson P, Leach C, Ah-Sing EE, et al.

Influence of alpha-linolenic acid and fish-oil on markers of cardiovascular risk in subjects with an atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype. Atherosclerosis. 2005; 181:115-24.

Thifault E, Cormier H, Bouchard-Mercier A, et al.

Effects of age, sex, body mass index and APOE genotype on cardiovascular biomarker response to an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2013; 6:73-82

Calviello G, Su HM, Weylandt KH, Fasano E, Serini S, Cittadini A. Experimental evidence of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid modulation of inflammatory cytokines and bioactive lipid mediators: their potential role in inflammatory, neurodegenerative, and neoplastic diseases. Biomed Res Int. 2013; 2013:743171.

Griffin MD, Sanders TA, Davies IG, et al. Effects of altering the ratio of dietary n-6 to n-3 fatty acids on insulin sensitivity, lipoprotein size, and postprandial lipemia in men and postmenopausal women aged 45-70 y: the OPTILIP Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006; 84:1290-8.

Shearer GC, Pottala JV, Hansen SN, Brandenburg V, Harris WS. Effects of prescription niacin and omega-3 fatty acids on lipids and vascular function in metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Lipid Res. 2012; 53:2429-35.

Lopez-Alvarenga JC, Ebbesson SO, Ebbesson LO, Tejero ME, Voruganti VS, Comuzzie AG. Polyunsaturated fatty acids effect on serum triglycerides concentration in the presence of metabolic syndrome components. The Alaska- Siberia Project. Metabolism. 2010;59:86-92.

Brady LM, Lovegrove SS, Lesauvage SV, et al.

Increased n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids do not attenuate the effects of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on insulin sensitivity or triacylglycerol reduction in Indian Asians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79:983-91.

Rodriguez Y, Christophe AB. Long-chain omega6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in erythrocyte phospholipids are associated with insulin resistance in non-obese type 2 diabetics. Clin Chim Acta. 2005;354:195-9.

Mata P, Varela O, Alonso R, Lahoz C, de Oya M, Badimon L. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated n-6 fatty acid-enriched diets modify LDL oxidation and decrease human coronary smooth muscle cell DNA synthesis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1997;17:2088-95.

Bjermo H, Iggman D, Kullberg J, et al. Effects of

n-6 PUFAs compared with SFAs on liver fat, lipoproteins, and inflammation in abdominal obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95:1003-12.

Tulk HM, Robinson LE. Modifying the n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio of a high-saturated fat challenge does not acutely attenuate postprandial changes in inflammatory markers in men with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism. 2009;58:1709-16.

How to Cite
Nourmohammdi M, Ejtahed H-S, Mirmiran P, Hekmatdoost A. Dietary fatty acid composition and metabolic syndrome: a review. JNSD. 1(1):28-6.
Review Article(s)