Although dietary fatty acids can modulate metabolic and immune responses, the effects of palmitoleic acid (16:1n-7) remain unclear. Since this monounsaturated fatty acid is described as a lipokine, studies with cell culture and rodent models have suggested it enhances whole body insulin sensitivity, stimulates insulin secretion by β cells, increases hepatic fatty acid oxidation, improves the blood lipid profile, and alters macrophage differentiation. However, human studies report elevated blood levels of palmitoleic acid in people with obesity and metabolic syndrome. These findings might be reflection of the level or activity of stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1, which synthesizes palmitoleate and is enhanced in liver and adipose tissue of obese patients. The aim of this review is to describe the immune-metabolic effects of palmitoleic acid observed in cell culture, animal models, and humans to answer the question of whether palmitoleic acid is a plausible nonpharmacological strategy to prevent, control, or ameliorate chronic metabolic and inflammatory disorders. Despite the beneficial effects observed in cell culture and in animal studies, there are insufficient human intervention studies to fully understand the physiological effects of palmitoleic acid. Therefore, more human-based research is needed to identify whether palmitoleic acid meets the promising therapeutic potential suggested by the preclinical research.
Keywords: atherosclerosis; inflammation; lipokine; metabolic syndrome; monounsaturated fatty acid; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; palmitoleic acid.
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