Dietary medium-chain saturated fatty acids induce gene expression of energy metabolism-related pathways in adipose tissue of abdominally obese subjects

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Dietary medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MC-SFAs) have been shown to reduce total body fat. Previously, we showed that MC-SFAs prevent body fat accumulation, despite weight gain. Here, we aim to explore potential molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effect of MC-SFAs on body fat gain.


The DairyHealth study examined the long-term effects of milk protein and milk fat with a low or high content of MC-SFA. In this 12 week, randomized, double-blind, diet intervention study, participants consumed 60 g milk protein (whey or casein) and 63 g milk fat (high MC-SFA or low MC-SFA) daily in a two by two factorial design. We used microarrays to measure whole genome gene expression changes in subcutaneous adipose tissue in a subpopulation of 12 participants, 6 in the low MC-SFA +casein group and 6 in the high MC-SFA+casein group. Gene expression of several genes that were found to be changed by MC-SFAs was confirmed in the full study population using qPCR.


High MC-SFA resulted in an upregulation of gene expression related to citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation, and a downregulation of gene expression related to complement system and inflammation.


We hypothesize that the beneficial effects of MC-SFAs on prevention of fat accumulation are mediated via increased gene expression related to energy metabolism in the adipose tissue. Decreases in inflammation-related gene expression may have beneficial effects in relation to cardiometabolic diseases.

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