Dietary stearic acid leads to a reduction of visceral adipose tissue in athymic nude mice

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 15;9(9):e104083. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104083. eCollection 2014.


Stearic acid (C18:0) is a long chain dietary saturated fatty acid that has been shown to reduce metastatic tumor burden. Based on preliminary observations and the growing evidence that visceral fat is related to metastasis and decreased survival, we hypothesized that dietary stearic acid may reduce visceral fat. Athymic nude mice, which are used in models of human breast cancer metastasis, were fed a stearic acid, linoleic acid (safflower oil), or oleic acid (corn oil) enriched diet or a low fat diet ad libitum. Total body weight did not differ significantly between dietary groups over the course of the experiment. However visceral fat was reduced by ∼70% in the stearic acid fed group compared to other diets. In contrast total body fat was only slightly reduced in the stearic acid diet fed mice when measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and quantitative magnetic resonance. Lean body mass was increased in the stearic acid fed group compared to all other groups by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Dietary stearic acid significantly reduced serum glucose compared to all other diets and increased monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) compared to the low fat control. The low fat control diet had increased serum leptin compared to all other diets. To investigate possible mechanisms whereby stearic acid reduced visceral fat we used 3T3L1 fibroblasts/preadipocytes. Stearic acid had no direct effects on the process of differentiation or on the viability of mature adipocytes. However, unlike oleic acid and linoleic acid, stearic acid caused increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) and cytotoxicity in preadipocytes. The apoptosis was, at least in part, due to increased caspase-3 activity and was associated with decreased cellular inhibitor of apoptosis protein-2 (cIAP2) and increased Bax gene expression. In conclusion, dietary stearic acid leads to dramatically reduced visceral fat likely by causing the apoptosis of preadipocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Body Weight
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Stearic Acids / pharmacology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Stearic Acids
  • stearic acid
  • Caspase 3