Saturated fatty acids: simple molecular structures with complex cellular functions.

Research paper by Vincent V Rioux, Philippe P Legrand

Indexed on: 20 Dec '07Published on: 20 Dec '07Published in: Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care


This review summarizes recent findings on the biological functions of saturated fatty acids. Some of these findings suggest that saturated fatty acids may have important and specific regulatory roles in the cells. Until now these roles have largely been outweighed by the negative impact of dietary saturated fatty acids on atherosclerosis biomarkers. Elucidated biochemical mechanisms like protein acylation (N-myristoylation, S-palmitoylation) and putative physiological roles are described.The review will focus on the following topics: new aspects on the metabolism of saturated fatty acids; recent reports on the biochemical functions of saturated fatty acids; current investigations on the physiological roles (elucidated and putative) of saturated fatty acids; and a discussion of the nutritional dietary recommendations (amounts and types) of saturated fatty acids.Dietary saturated fatty acids are usually associated with negative consequences for human health. Experimental results on the relationship between doses, physiological effects, specificities and functions of individual saturated fatty acids are, however, conflicting. In this context, this review describes emerging recent evidence that some saturated fatty acids have important and specific biological roles. Such data are needed to allow a balanced view in terms of potential nutritional benefits of saturated fatty acids, and, if necessary, reassessment of the current nutritional dietary recommendations.