Lifestyle Factors Associated with Circulating Very Long-Chain Saturated Fatty Acids in Humans: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies

Year Published: 2023


Adv Nutr


Kira Zhi Hua Lai 1 , Nagam A Yehia 1 , Zhila Semnani-Azad 2 , Sonia Blanco Mejia 3 , Beatrice A Boucher 1 , Vasanti Malik 2 , Richard P Bazinet 1 , Anthony J Hanley 4


Recent observational studies have documented inverse associations of circulating very long-chain saturated fatty acids (VLCSFAs), namely arachidic acid (20:0), behenic acid (22:0), and lignoceric acid (24:0), with cardiometabolic outcomes. In addition to their endogenous production, it has been suggested that dietary intake or an overall healthier lifestyle may influence VLCSFA concentrations; however, a systematic review of the modifiable lifestyle contributors to circulating VLCSFAs is lacking. Therefore, this review aimed to systematically assess the effects of diet, physical activity, and smoking on circulating VLCSFAs. Following registration on PROSPERO (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews) (ID: CRD42021233550), a systematic search of observational studies was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and The Cochrane databases up to February 2022.

Key Findings

Key Findings: A total of 12 studies consisting of mostly cross-sectional analyses were included in this review. The majority of the studies documented the associations of dietary intake with total plasma or red blood cell VLCSFAs, in which a range of macronutrients and food groups were examined. Two cross-sectional analyses showed a consistent positive association between total fat and peanut intake with 22:0 and 24:0 and an inverse association between alcohol intake and 20:0 and 22:0. Furthermore, a moderate positive association between physical activity and 22:0 and 24:0 was observed. Lastly, there were conflicting results on the effects of smoking on VLCSFA. Although most studies had a low risk of bias; the findings of this review are limited by the bi-variate analyses presented in the majority of the included studies, therefore, the impact of confounding is unclear. In conclusion, although the current observational literature examining lifestyle determinants of VLCSFAs is limited, existing evidence suggests that circulating 22:0 and 24:0 may be influenced by higher total and saturated fat consumption and nut intake.