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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Relationship Between Fatty Acids and the Endocrine System.

Author
item Bhathena, Sam

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: December 17, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The study describes the interactions between dietary fatty acids and the endocrine system. In turn, endocrine system (hormones) also affect the metabolism and plasma levels of fatty acids. Hormones as well as fatty acids are altered in diabetes. This alteration appears to be due to decreased insulin and increased glucagon levels in plasma. The level as well as the type of dietary fat affect the hormones. Thus, saturated and trans fatty acids (present in hydrogenated oils and some margarines) decrease insulin plasma insulin levels leading to insulin resistance. Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in many seed oils and fish oils increase plasma insulin and decrease insulin resistance. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are converted to eicosanoids (prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes), which also affect hormone levels and play a role in platelet aggregation (clumping) especially in diabetic subjects. These findings will help medical professionals, dietitians, nutritionists, basic scientists and other health related professionals in recommending dietary fat to general population to reduce the incidence of diabetes.

Technical Abstract: Significant interactions exist between fatty acids and the endocrine system. Hormones affect the metabolism of fatty acids and the fatty acid composition of tissue lipids. The principal hormones involved in lipid metabolism are insulin, glucagon, catecholamines, cortisol and growth hormone. The concentrations of these hormones are altered in chronic degenerative conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which in turn leads to alterations in tissue lipids. Lipogenesis and lipolysis, which modulate fatty acid concentrations in plasma and tissues, are under hormonal control. Neuropeptides are involved in lipid metabolism in brain and other tissues. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are also precursors for eicosanoids including prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes, which have hormone-like activities. Fatty acids in turn alter both hormone and neuropeptide concentrations and their receptors. Saturated and trans fatty acids (TFA) decrease insulin concentration leading to insulin resistance. In contrast, PUFA increase plasma insulin concentration and decrease insulin resistance. In humans, omega-3 PUFA alter the levels of opioid peptides in plasma.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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