In order to investigate whether the pattern of elevated free fatty acids (FFAs) has any effect on insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion in humans, we produced 2 distinct serum FFA patterns (PT 1 and 2) by infusing 6 healthy volunteers with 2 different lipid emulsions plus heparin for 24 hours. A hyperglycemic clamp (approx. 8 mM, 140 min) was performed before and 5 and 24 hours after both lipid infusions to determine insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion simultaneously. Total FFAs had increased comparably by 24 hours (2020+/-268 microM in PT 1) and (1812+/-154 microM in PT 2, p =0.24). Serum PT 1 contained 66% saturated FFAs plus monoenes and 34% polyenes, while PT 2 contained 80% saturated FFAs plus monoenes and 20% polyenes. Thus, the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated plus monoenes was about 0.5 in PT 1 vs. 0.25 in PT 2. In PT 1, the insulin sensitivity index (ISI) decreased by 20 +/- 7% and 27 +/- 10% from basal after 5 and 24 hours, respectively. In PT 2, the ISI decreased significantly more after 5 (41+/-7%, p = 0.008) and 24 hours (52+/-6%, p = 0.005). In contrast, different phases of insulin secretion did not change during the lipid infusion and did not vary between the two FFA profiles. In conclusion, these findings provide preliminary evidence that the composition of elevated serum FFAs influenced insulin sensitivity in humans. The FFA pattern low in polyunsaturated FFAs reduced insulin sensitivity more than the pattern high in polyunsaturated FFAs. In contrast, no effect on insulin secretion was observed.