, Volume 52, Issue 8, pp 1628-1637

First online:

Synthesis of specific fatty acids contributes to VLDL-triacylglycerol composition in humans with and without type 2 diabetes

  • M. S. WilkeAffiliated withAlberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta
  • , M. A. FrenchAffiliated withAlberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta
  • , Y. K. GohAffiliated withAlberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta
  • , E. A. RyanAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of Alberta
  • , P. J. JonesAffiliated withRichardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, University of Manitoba
  • , M. T. ClandininAffiliated withAlberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of AlbertaDepartment of Medicine, University of Alberta Email author 



It is recommended that patients with diabetes reduce their intake of saturated fat and increase their intake of monounsaturated fat or carbohydrate. However, high-carbohydrate diets may result in higher saturated fatty acids in VLDL-triacylglycerol. This is attributed to de novo lipogenesis, although synthesis of specific fatty acids is rarely measured. The objective of this study was to examine the contribution of de novo fatty acid synthesis to VLDL-triacylglycerol composition. It was hypothesised that levels of total and de novo synthesised fatty acids would increase with increased carbohydrate intake in diabetic participants.


Seven individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus and seven matched non-diabetic controls consumed two diets differing in fat energy (lower fat <25%, higher fat >35%) for 3 days in a randomised crossover design. Blood samples were drawn before and 24 h after the ingestion of 2H-labelled water.


In the control participants, the higher-fat diet resulted in a 40% reduction in VLDL-triacylglycerol fatty acids because of decreases in myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic and linoleic acids, but the opposite trend occurred in participants with diabetes. The lower-fat diet increased the fractional synthesis rate by 35% and 25% in the control and diabetes participants, respectively (range: 0–33%). Palmitate accounted for 71% of fatty acids synthesised (range: 44–84% total de novo synthesised fatty acids).


2H incorporation was used for the first time in humans showing variability in the synthesis rate of specific fatty acids, even palmitic acid. A lower-fat diet stimulated saturated fatty acid synthesis at high rates, but no net stimulation of synthesis of any fatty acid occurred in the diabetes group. The implications of this finding for our understanding of lipid metabolism in diabetes require further investigation.


De novo lipogenesis Deuterium incorporation Dietary carbohydrate Dietary fat Fat metabolism Fatty acid composition Mass spectrometry Plasma triacylglycerols Type 2 diabetes mellitus VLDL