Sex and Depot Differences in Palmitoleic Acid Content of Human Blood and Fat

Paola Ramos, Nikki C. Bush, Michael D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Palmitoleic acid has been classified as an insulin-sensitizing lipokine, but evidence for this from human studies has been inconsistent. We hypothesized that this is related to either the types of samples or conditions under which samples are collected. We measured plasma palmitoleic acid and total free fatty acids (FFA) using ultra-performance liquid chromatography in blood samples collected from 34 adults under a variety of conditions. We collected duplicate samples of adipose (n = 10), FFA (n = 9), and very low density lipoprotein triacylglycerol (VLDL-TAG) (n = 7) to measure the palmitoleic acid as a percentage of total fatty acids. We tested whether the percentage of palmitoleic acid was correlated with insulin resistance, as measured by homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Adipose stearoyl-coenzyme A desaturase 1 (SCD-1) protein was measured by capillary Western blotting. FFA-palmitoleic acid percentage increased as a function of total FFA and was greater (p < 0.005) in females than males. Adipose palmitoleic acid percentage was greater in females than males (p < 0.001), as was adipose SCD-1. Palmitoleic acid was greater in femoral fat than in abdominal fat in both females and males (p < 0.001), and correlated positively with HOMA-IR only in females. The test–retest reliability values for percentage palmitoleic acid were 7 ± 10% for adipose, 24 ± 26% for VLDL, and 53 ± 31% for FFA. Because FFA-palmitoleic acid percentage varies as a function of total FFA, investigators should re-evaluate how palmitoleic acid data is presented. The positive relationship between adipose palmitoleic acid and HOMA-IR in females suggests that it is not a potent insulin-sensitizing lipokine in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Abdominal adipose tissue
  • Femoral adipose tissue
  • Free fatty acids
  • Ultra-performance liquid chromatography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Cell Biology


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