Dietary medium-chain saturated fatty acids induce gene expression of energy metabolism-related pathways in adipose tissue of abdominally obese subjects

Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 Sep;41(9):1348-1354. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.120. Epub 2017 May 22.


Background: Dietary medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MC-SFAs) have been shown to reduce total body fat. Previously, we showed that MC-SFAs prevent body fat accumulation, despite weight gain. Here, we aim to explore potential molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effect of MC-SFAs on body fat gain.

Methods: The DairyHealth study examined the long-term effects of milk protein and milk fat with a low or high content of MC-SFA. In this 12 week, randomized, double-blind, diet intervention study, participants consumed 60 g milk protein (whey or casein) and 63 g milk fat (high MC-SFA or low MC-SFA) daily in a two by two factorial design. We used microarrays to measure whole genome gene expression changes in subcutaneous adipose tissue in a subpopulation of 12 participants, 6 in the low MC-SFA+casein group and 6 in the high MC-SFA+casein group. Gene expression of several genes that were found to be changed by MC-SFAs was confirmed in the full study population using qPCR.

Results: High MC-SFA resulted in an upregulation of gene expression related to citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation, and a downregulation of gene expression related to complement system and inflammation.

Conclusions: We hypothesize that the beneficial effects of MC-SFAs on prevention of fat accumulation are mediated via increased gene expression related to energy metabolism in the adipose tissue. Decreases in inflammation-related gene expression may have beneficial effects in relation to cardiometabolic diseases.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Caseins / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Milk Proteins / chemistry
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / metabolism*


  • Caseins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Milk Proteins