British Journal of Nutrition

Human and Clinical Nutrition

The effect of test meal monounsaturated fatty acid: saturated fatty acid ratio on postprandial lipid metabolism

Helen M. Rochea1 c1, Antonis Zampelasa2, Kim G. Jacksona3, Christine M. Williamsa3 and Michael J. Gibneya1

a1 Unit of Nutrition, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St James's Hospital, James's Street, Dublin 8, Ireland

a2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 5XH, UK

a3 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AP, UK


Epidemiological evidence shows that a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) but low in saturated fatty acids (SFA) is associated with reduced risk of CHD. The hypocholesterolaemic effect of MUFA is known but there has been little research on the effect of test meal MUFA and SFA composition on postprandial lipid metabolism. The present study investigated the effect of meals containing different proportions of MUFA and SFA on postprandial triacylglycerol and non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA) metabolism. Thirty healthy male volunteers consumed three meals containing equal amounts of fat (40g), but different proportions of MUFA (12, 17 and 24% energy) in random order. Postprandial plasma triacylglycerol, apolipoprotein B-48, cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, glucose and insulin concentrations and lipoprotein lipase (EC activity were not significantly different following the three meals which varied in their levels of SFA and MUFA. There was a significant difference in the postprandial NEFA response between meals. The incremental area under the curve of postprandial plasma NEFA concentrations was significantly (P = 0·03) lower following the high-MUFA meal. Regression analysis showed that the non-significant difference in fasting NEFA concentrations was the most important factor determining difference between meals, and that the test meal MUFA content had only a minor effect. In conclusion, varying the levels of MUFA and SFA in test meals has little or no effect on postprandial lipid metabolism.

(Received May 30 1997)

(Revised November 27 1997)

(Accepted December 03 1997)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Helen M. Roche, fax +353 1 454 2043, email