Plasma polyunsaturated fatty acid profile and delta-5 desaturase activity are altered in patients with type 2 diabetes

Metabolism. 2014 Nov;63(11):1432-8. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2014.08.003. Epub 2014 Aug 7.


Objective: The association between imbalance of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially low plasma n-3 to n-6 PUFA ratio, and risk of cardiovascular diseases is well known. A balance of plasma PUFAs is determined not only by dietary fatty acid intake, but also by the endogenous fatty acid metabolism, which could be dysregulated by diabetes. In this study, we investigated the plasma n-3 and n-6 PUFA profile and fatty acid desaturase activity in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Materials/methods: The subjects were 396 patients with T2D and 122 healthy controls. Plasma eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), arachidonic acid (AA), and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA) levels were measured by capillary gas chromatography.

Results: Plasma DHA, AA, and DGLA levels were significantly higher, and EPA levels tended to be lower in patients with T2D than in the controls. Patients with T2D also exhibited significantly lower EPA/AA, DHA/AA, and (EPA+DHA)/AA ratios, and a higher AA/DGLA ratio than the controls. Multiple regression analyses, including age, sex, body mass index, and metabolic parameters in the total population, revealed that the presence of T2D was independently associated with elevated plasma DHA, AA, and DGLA levels and decreased EPA/AA, DHA/AA, and (EPA+DHA)/AA ratios. Furthermore, T2D was independently and positively related to the AA/DGLA ratio, which serves as an estimate of delta (Δ)-5 desaturase activity.

Conclusions: Elevated plasma AA levels and decreased n-3 PUFA/AA ratios in T2D are attributable, at least partly, to Δ5 desaturase activation.

Keywords: Arachidonic acid; Delta-5 desaturase; Dihomo-γ-linolenic acid; PUFA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Delta-5 Fatty Acid Desaturase
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / enzymology
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Delta-5 Fatty Acid Desaturase
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases