Dietary Fatty Acids and Their Potential for Controlling Metabolic Diseases Through Activation of FFA4/GPR120

Annu Rev Nutr. 2015;35:239-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071714-034410.


It is well known that the amount and type of ingested fat impacts the development of obesity and metabolic diseases, but the potential for beneficial effects from fat has received less attention. It is becoming clear that the composition of the individual fatty acids in diet is important. Besides acting as precursors of potent signaling molecules, dietary fatty acids act directly on intracellular and cell surface receptors. The free fatty acid receptor 4 (FFA4, previously GPR120) is linked to the regulation of body weight, inflammation, and insulin resistance and represents a potential target for the treatment of metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. In this review, we discuss the various types of dietary fatty acids, the link between FFA4 and metabolic diseases, the potential effects of the individual fatty acids on health, and the ability of fatty acids to activate FFA4. We also discuss the possibility of dietary schemes that implement activation of FFA4.

Keywords: 7-transmembrane receptors; GPR120; GPR40; fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / physiology
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver
  • Metabolic Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Taste Buds


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dietary Fats
  • FFAR4 protein, human
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Hormones
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled