Metabolism of dietary stearic acid relative to other fatty acids in human subjects

Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Dec;60(6 Suppl):1023S-1028S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/60.6.1023S.


This paper reviews results obtained by stable-isotope-tracer methods for stearic acid (18:0) and palmitic acid (16:0) metabolism and the influence of dietary linoleic acid on the metabolism of these saturated fatty acids in humans subjects. The results, based on stable-isotope-tracer data, show that absorption of 18:0 is not significantly different from 16:0; percent desaturation of 18:0 to 9-cis 18:1 (9.2%) is 2.4 times higher than for 16:0 to 9-cis 16:1 (3.9%) and 9-desaturation is not greatly influenced by the amount of linoleic acid in typical US diets. Additionally, compared with 16:0, 18:0 incorporation is 30-40% lower for plasma triglyceride and cholesterol ester and approximately 40% higher for phosphatidylcholine; beta-oxidation of saturated fatty acids was slower than for unsaturated fatty acids and increasing the intake of dietary linoleic acid decreased beta-oxidation of saturated fatty acids. These results indicate that metabolic differences between 18:0 and 16:0 only partially explain the difference in the cholesterolemic effect reported for these saturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Acylation
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Stearic Acids / metabolism*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Stearic Acids
  • stearic acid