Contribution of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins to plasma free fatty acids

Horm Metab Res. 2007 Oct;39(10):726-9. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-990273.


Free fatty acids are the major lipid fuel of the body. Dysregulation of adipose tissue lipolysis results in increased plasma free fatty acid concentrations, and via that mechanism contributes to insulin resistance in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Adipose tissue hormone sensitive lipase is thought to be responsible for the production of the majority of free fatty acids. However, a separate contribution comes from the action of endothelial lipases, especially lipoprotein lipase, on triglyceride-rich lipoproteins via a process known as spillover. The primary substrate for spillover appears to be chylomicrons derived from dietary fat. The spillover of fatty acids into the free fatty acid pool varies from one tissue to another. For example, spillover is low ( approximately 14%) in the forearm of healthy volunteers, suggesting that triglyceride fatty acid storage is relatively efficient in skeletal muscle. In contrast, spillover appears to be higher in adipose tissue and may also be higher in the splanchnic bed, based on preliminary data. If systemic spillover is increased in insulin resistant states such as diabetes, this could represent a mechanism contributing to the abnormal increases in plasma concentrations of free fatty acids in that condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood*
  • Forearm / blood supply
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Lipoproteins / chemistry
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Postprandial Period / physiology
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Lipoproteins
  • Triglycerides