Purpose of review: Dairy is a major food group with potential impact on cardiometabolic health. Self-reported dairy intake has limitations that can partly be avoided by using biomarkers. This review aims to summarize the evidence of odd-chain saturated fatty acids (OCFAs), that is, pentadecanoic acid (C15 : 0) and heptadecanoic acid (17 : 0), as biomarkers of dairy fat intake. In addition, the associations of OCFA biomarkers with cardiometabolic disease will be overviewed.
Recent findings: Adipose tissue 15 : 0 is the preferred biomarker but also circulating 15 : 0, and to a weaker extent 17 : 0, reflects both habitual and changes in dairy intake. Whereas results from studies assessing cardiovascular outcomes are inconsistent, OCFA biomarkers are overall associated with lower diabetes risk. Residual confounding should however be considered until interventional data and mechanisms are available. Although OCFA biomarkers mainly reflect dairy fat intake, recently proposed endogenous synthesis and metabolism do motivate further research.
Summary: Taking into account the study population diet and limitations of OCFA biomarkers, both adipose and circulating levels of 15 : 0, in particular, are useful for estimating total dairy fat intake. OCFA biomarkers are overall not linked to cardiovascular disease risk, but a possible beneficial role of dairy foods in diabetes prevention warrant further study.