Application of metabolomics part II: Focus on fatty acids and their metabolites in healthy adults

Int J Mol Med. 2019 Jan;43(1):233-242. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2018.3989. Epub 2018 Nov 14.


Fatty acids (FAs) play critical roles in health and disease. The detection of FA imbalances through metabolomics can provide an overview of an individual's health status, particularly as regards chronic inflammatory disorders. In this study, we aimed to establish sensitive reference value ranges for targeted plasma FAs in a well‑defined population of healthy adults. Plasma samples were collected from 159 participants admitted as outpatients. A total of 24 FAs were analyzed using gas chromatography‑mass spectrometry, and physiological values and 95% reference intervals were calculated using an approximate method of analysis. The differences among the age groups for the relative levels of stearic acid (P=0.005), the omega‑6/omega‑3 ratio (P=0.027), the arachidonic acid/eicosapentaenoic acid ratio (P<0.001) and the linoleic acid‑produced dihomo‑gamma‑linolenic acid (P=0.046) were statistically significant. The majority of relative FA levels were higher in males than in females. The levels of myristic acid (P=0.0170) and docosahexaenoic acid (P=0.033) were significantly different between the sexes. The reference values for the FAs examined in this study represent a baseline for further studies examining the reproducibility of this methodology and sensitivities for nutrient deficiency detection and investigating the biochemical background of pathological conditions. The application of these values to clinical practice will allow for the discrimination between health and disease and contribute to early prevention and treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eicosanoids / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged


  • Eicosanoids
  • Fatty Acids