Fatty-acid-mediated hypothalamic inflammation and epigenetic programming

J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Apr:42:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.08.008. Epub 2016 Sep 13.


A high-fat diet is the main environmental cue that has been studied in the hypothalamus since the discovery of its connection with hypothalamic inflammation. Current evidence shows hypothalamic inflammation as a likely mechanism for the dysregulation on the homeostatic control of energy balance, which leads to metabolic alterations and obesity. Although this mechanism seems to be reversible when set during adulthood, we argue whether dietary fatty acids, during critical periods of development, could affect hypothalamic function permanently and set an increased susceptibility to obesity. We found few experimental studies that looked at programming induced by different fatty acids on the hypothalamus. They clearly showed a connection between maternal fat diet, hypothalamic inflammation and metabolic alterations in the offspring. We found that not only a high-fat diet but also a normolipidic diet with unbalanced quantities of different fatty acids produced diverse inflammatory responses on the hypothalamus. Therefore, strategies of manipulating dietary fatty acids in pregnant and lactating women may have great impact on the population's future health. However, more research is still needed on the effects of fatty acids and the hypothalamic inflammation on programming.

Keywords: Appetite regulation; Fatty acids; Hypothalamus; Inflammation; Obesity; Programming.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Encephalitis / etiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids / adverse effects*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Pregnancy


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids