Increased erythrocytes n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids is significantly associated with a lower prevalence of steatosis in patients with type 2 diabetes

Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;31(4):520-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.12.007. Epub 2011 Dec 30.


Background & aims: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is commonly associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Although dietary fat contributes substantially to the accumulation of liver fat, the role of individual fatty acids in this accumulation is unclear.

Objective: In this study, we set out to determine whether liver fat content (LFC), was associated with red blood cell fatty acid (RBC-FA) composition in people with type 2 diabetes.

Design, settings, and participants: One hundred and sixty-two type 2 diabetic patients were included in this study. LFC was measured using (1)H-MR Spectroscopy. RBC-FA composition was measured by gas chromatography.

Results: One hundred and nine (67.2%) patients had steatosis. Patients with steatosis had a higher BMI (p = 0.0005), and higher plasma triglyceride levels (p = 0.009) than did patients without steatosis. We report a significant association between palmitic acid (16:0), palmitoleic acid (16:1n-7) concentrations and ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acid (palmitoleic acid to palmitic acid) and higher liver fat content. Total polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), homo-gamma-linolenic acid (20:3n-6), docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3), and arachidonic acid (20:4 n-6) were associated with lower LFC.

Conclusions: Our data showed that an increased erythrocytes long-chain n-3 and n-6 fatty acids was associated with a lower prevalence of steatosis in patients with type 2 diabetes. These results suggest that n-3 and n-6 fatty acids supplementation could be a promising treatment for NAFLD in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / blood*
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Fatty Liver / physiopathology*
  • Fatty Liver / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Palmitic Acid / analysis
  • Palmitic Acid / metabolism
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • Triglycerides
  • palmitoleic acid
  • Palmitic Acid