Fasting nonesterified fatty acid profiles in childhood and their relationship with adiposity, insulin sensitivity, and lipid levels

Matthew A Sabin, Mark De Hora, Jeff M P Holly, Linda P Hunt, Anna L Ford, Simon R Williams, Julien S Baker, Christopher J Retallick, Elizabeth C Crowne, Julian P H Shield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to examine the major constituent of nonesterified fatty acids in children with respect to auxologic parameters, insulin sensitivity, and lipid levels, because nonesterified fatty acid levels are elevated in obesity and are important in the development of comorbidities.

METHODS: Fasting blood samples were obtained from 73 children (43 girls; 49 obese; median [range] age: 11.4 [0.9-17.6] years). Concentrations of the major circulating nonesterified fatty acids (myristate, palmitate, oleate, stearate, and arachidate) were determined by gas chromatography mass spectrometry, alongside measurement of insulin, adiponectin, and lipid profiles.

RESULTS: The sum of all nonesterified fatty acids was significantly higher in obese versus normal-weight children, although gender (but not age or puberty) was an important determinant, with the difference remaining significant only in boys. Overall, obese children had higher concentrations of myristate, palmitate, and oleate but not stearate or arachidate. Age was an important determinant of myristate and arachidate, whereas gender proved more important for palmitate and stearate. Fasting insulin concentrations were not associated with either total nonesterified fatty acid concentrations or any of the individual nonesterified fatty acids, although a positive correlation was found between adiponectin and total nonesterified fatty acid concentrations that was independent of obesity status and that seemed mediated by changes in palmitate and stearate. Serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (but not high-density lipoprotein) levels seemed to correlate positively with circulating concentrations of palmitate, oleate, and stearate, whereas serum triacylglycerols correlated with myristate, palmitate, and oleate concentrations.

CONCLUSIONS: Nonesterified fatty acid concentrations are elevated in obese children, primarily as a result of increases in myristate, palmitate, and oleate. Independent effects of nonesterified fatty acids on circulating adiponectin levels and lipid parameters were observed, although we found no relationship between nonesterified fatty acid concentrations and the insulin resistance identified with obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1426-1433
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholesterol
  • Fasting
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipoproteins
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Triglycerides


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