British Journal of Nutrition

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Acute effects of elevated NEFA on vascular function: a comparison of SFA and MUFA

Katie J. Newensa1, Abby K. Thompsona1, Kim G. Jacksona1, John Wrighta1 and Christine M. Williamsa1 c1

a1 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK


There is emerging evidence to show that high levels of NEFA contribute to endothelial dysfunction and impaired insulin sensitivity. However, the impact of NEFA composition remains unclear. A total of ten healthy men consumed test drinks containing 50 g of palm stearin (rich in SFA) or high-oleic sunflower oil (rich in MUFA) on separate occasions; a third day included no fat as a control. The fats were emulsified into chocolate drinks and given as a bolus (approximately 10 g fat) at baseline followed by smaller amounts (approximately 3 g fat) every 30 min throughout the 6 h study day. An intravenous heparin infusion was initiated 2 h after the bolus, which resulted in a three- to fourfold increase in circulating NEFA level from baseline. Mean arterial stiffness as measured by digital volume pulse was higher during the consumption of SFA (P < 0·001) but not MUFA (P = 0·089) compared with the control. Overall insulin and gastric inhibitory peptide response was greater during the consumption of both fats compared with the control (P < 0·001); there was a second insulin peak in response to MUFA unlike SFA. Consumption of SFA resulted in higher levels of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sI-CAM) at 330 min than that of MUFA or control (P ≤ 0·048). There was no effect of the test drinks on glucose, total nitrite, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 or endothelin-1 concentrations. The present study indicates a potential negative impact of elevated NEFA derived from the consumption of SFA on arterial stiffness and sI-CAM levels. More studies are needed to fully investigate the impact of NEFA composition on risk factors for CVD.

(Received May 25 2010)

(Revised September 24 2010)

(Accepted November 01 2010)

(Online publication December 16 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor C. M. Williams, fax +44 118 378 5677, email


Abbreviations: ET-1, endothelin-1; FMD, flow-mediated dilatation; GIP, gastric inhibitory peptide; GLP-1, glucagon-like peptide-1; NOx, total nitrite; PAI-1, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1; SIDVP, stiffness index derived from digital volume pulse; sI-CAM, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1; T2D, type 2 diabetes