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The role of individual fatty acids in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, but the effects of an overall pattern of fatty acids in CVD risk has yet to be elucidated. Circulating fatty acid levels are related to metabolic disturbances associated with the metabolic syndrome and CVD, due to disturbances in the activity of enzymes that catalyse fatty acid desaturation (Δ-desaturases). Therefore, we determined patterns of fatty acids and estimated desaturase activity in plasma and analysed how these patterns were related to a 10-year CVD risk estimates in a middle-aged male population in Northern Ireland.Principal components analysis (PCA) was performed for defining fatty acid patterns in 379 men aged 30-49 years. Logistic regression analyses were then carried out for analysing the relationship between these fatty acid patterns and the 10-year CVD risk estimates.The PCA generated three high fatty acid patterns: high saturated fatty acid (SFA), high omega 3 fatty acid (omega 3) and high monosaturated fatty acid (MNFA). Results from logistic regression analyses show that a 1 s.d. increase in the SFA pattern score was significantly and positively associated with an increase in the 10-year CVD risk category (odds ratio 1.71, 95% confidence interval 1.33-2.21, P < 0.0001) even after adjustment for lifestyle factors. There were no significant relationships between the other two pattern scores and the 10-year CVD risk.An unhealthy fatty acid pattern representing both dietary intake and in vivo fatty acid metabolism is related to the 10-year CVD risk estimates and provide evidence that, as with dietary patterns, the synergistic effect of multiple fatty acids may be more important in relation to the development of CVD risk.