Dietary stearic acid and palmitic acid do not differently affect ABCA1-mediated cholesterol efflux capacity in healthy men and postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial

M.A. van Rooijen, J. Plat, W.A.M. Blom, P.L. Zock, R.P. Mensink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: The saturated fatty acid stearic acid (C18:0) lowers HDL cholesterol compared with palmitic acid (C16:0). However, the ability of HDL particles to promote cholesterol efflux from macrophages (cholesterol efflux capacity; CEC) may better predict coronary heart disease (CHD) risk than HDL cholesterol concentrations.Objective: We examined effects of exchanging dietary palmitic acid for stearic acid on ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1)-mediated CEC, and other conventional and emerging cardiometabolic risk makers.Design: In a double-blind, randomized, crossover study with two 4-week isocaloric intervention periods, 34 healthy men and postmenopausal women (61.5 +/- 5.7 years, BMI: 25.4 +/- 2.5 kg/m(2)) followed diets rich in palmitic acids or stearic acids. Difference in intakes was 6% of daily energy. ABCA1-mediated CEC was measured from J774 macrophages to apolipoprotein (apo)B-depleted serum.Results: Compared with the palmitic-acid diet, the stearic-acid diet lowered serum LDL cholesterol (-0.14 mmol/L; p = 0.010), HDL cholesterol (-0.09 mmol/L; p = <0.001), and apoA1 (-0.05 g/L; p < 0.001). ABCA1-mediated CEC did not differ between diets (p = 0.280). Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) mass was higher on stearic acid (0.11 mg/L; p = 0.003), but CETP activity was comparable. ApoB100 did not differ, but triacylglycerol concentrations tended to be higher on stearic acid (p = 0.100). Glucose concentrations were comparable. Effects on insulin and C-peptide were sex-dependent. In women, the stearic-acid diet increased insulin concentrations (1.57 mu U/mL; p = 0.002), while in men, C-peptide concentrations were lower (-0.15 ng/mL; p = 0.037). Interleukin 6 (0.15 pg/mL; p = 0.039) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (0.18 pg/mL; p = 0.005), but not high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, were higher on stearic acid. Soluble intracellular adhesion molecule (9 ng/mL; p = 0.033), but not soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule and endothelial-selectin concentrations decreased after stearic-acid consumption.Conclusions: As expected, stearic-acid intake lowered LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and apoA1. Insulin sensitivity in women and low-grade inflammation might be unfavorably affected by stearic-acid intake. However, palmitic-acid and stearic-acid intakes did not differently affect ABCA1-mediated CEC. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd and European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-811
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Stearic acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Human intervention study
  • Cholesterol efflux capacity
  • Cardiometabolic risk markers

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