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Lipodomic analysis identifies new lipid biomarkers for heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Researches from Deutsches Zentrum fuer Diabetesforschung (DZD), have identified new lipid biomarkers for CVD and T2D using lipodomic analysis. The team also found that increasing unsaturated fatty acid intake reduced risk-associated lipids.

Heart disease is the global leading cause of mortality, leading to approximately 18 million fatalities each year. People with type 2 diabetes are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. For decades, the number of individuals impacted has been gradually increasing. As a result, there is a critical need to identify indicators that can detect the onset of disease at an early stage, allowing the disease to be prevented or at least controlled.

Cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are related to lipid metabolism, according to previous research. For several years, scientists have used lipidomics analysis to elucidate these interconnections at the molecular level. This is a cutting-edge analytical technique that offers a lot of information about the fatty acid profiles in your blood plasma. Fatty acids are mostly found in the human body as part of large compounds called lipids. They are divided into a variety of lipid classes depending on the molecular structure.

Dr. Fabian Eichelmann, a researcher at the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), and his colleagues analyzed fatty acid profile information in 2,414 samples of people who developed cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. These samples were taken from the EPIC-Potsdam trial. The researchers discovered a total of 282 distinct lipids using high-throughput lipidomics, 69 of which were linked to at least one of the two disorders. The researchers discovered that higher-risk lipids contained primarily saturated fatty acids, — in particular palmitic acid.

Dr. Eichelmann stated in a press release, “A statistical association with cardiovascular diseases was found for 49 lipids, which mainly belonged to the cholesterol esters and sphingolipids. Twelve lipids were associated with type 2 diabetes, the majority of which were glycerol and phospholipids. An association with both diseases was seen for 8 lipids, among which several monoacylglycerides stood out.”

The team wanted to see if the risk-associated lipids might be changed by modifying the fatty acid makeup of the food in the second portion of their research. The researchers gathered 113 healthy participants (21-60) and split them into three groups at random. The first group was given a diet high in saturated fatty acids. The second group ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). The third group got a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Blood samples were obtained at the start of the trial and again four months later so that the researchers could assess and compare the fatty acid levels in the subjects’ bloodstream.

When compared to a diet with a higher saturated fatty acid intake, diets with a higher proportion of unsaturated FAs led to a reduction in risk-associated lipids while simultaneously increasing low-risk lipids. The study’s results back the popular notion that substituting saturated fatty acids in the diet with unsaturated fatty acids can help avoid cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

To find a list of good sources for saturated fats, click here.


The study was published in Circulation on April 15th, 2022.

Abstract. Background: In blood and tissues, dietary and endogenously generated fatty acids (FAs) occur in free form or as part of complex lipid molecules that collectively represent the lipidome of the respective tissue. We assessed associations of plasma lipids derived from high-resolution lipidomics with incident cardiometabolic diseases and subsequently tested if the identified risk-associated lipids were sensitive to dietary fat modification. Results: 69 lipids associated (false discovery rate (FDR) <0.05) with at least one outcome (both=8, only CVD=49, only T2D=12). In brief, several monoacylglycerols and FA16:0 and FA18:0 in diacylglycerols were associated with both outcomes, cholesteryl esters, free fatty acids, and sphingolipids were largely CVD-specific, and several (glycero)phospholipids T2D-specific. In addition, nineteen risk-associated lipids were affected (FDR<0.05) by the diets rich in unsaturated dietary FAs compared to the saturated fat diet (17 in a direction consistent with a potential beneficial effect on long-term cardiometabolic risk). For example, the monounsaturated FA-rich diet decreased DG(FA16:0) by 0.4 (95%-CI:0.5,0.3) SD-units and increased TG(FA22:1) by 0.5 (95%-CI:0.4,0.7) SD-units. Conclusions: We identified several lipids associated with cardiometabolic disease risk. A subset was beneficially altered by a dietary fat intervention, which supports substitution of dietary saturated FAs with unsaturated FAs as a potential tool for primary disease prevention.

Eichelmann F, Sellem L, Wittenbecher C, Jäger S, Kuxhaus O, Prada M, Cuadrat R, Jackson KG, Lovegrove JA, Schulze MB. Deep Lipidomics in Human Plasma – Cardiometabolic Disease Risk and Effect of Dietary Fat Modulation. Circulation. 2022 Apr 15. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.056805. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35422138.

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