Objective: Fatty acid (FA) composition has a role in adipogenesis. The objective was to study serum phospholipid (PL) FAs in adolescents and their relation to abdominal adipose tissue (AT) compartments and metabolic markers.

Research Methods and Procedures: Abdominal AT was measured by magnetic resonance imaging and FA pattern was determined in serum PL of 10 obese adolescents (5 females), median age 12.0 years (range, 10.4 to 16.4) and BMI 30.7 (26.8 to 40.4), and 15 lean control subjects (9 females), median age 12.6 years (range, 11.3 to 15.4), and BMI 19.5 (17.1 to 23.4).

Results: Obese adolescents had relatively higher levels of saturated FA (SFA) and nervonic acid compared with controls. Serum PL concentration of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) was lower in the obese vs. lean females (p = 0.01), including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (p = 0.01). The ratios of arachidonic acid to DHA and total n-6/n-3 FA were increased in obese children (p = 0.02 and 0.01, respectively). n-3 PUFAs were inversely correlated to all subcutaneous AT compartments except visceral AT. The homeostasis model assessment index of ß-cell function related inversely to DHA concentration (p = 0.03). All changes were more marked in the females.

Discussion: Serum FA pattern in obese adolescents differed significantly from that in age-matched lean controls, reflecting a decrease in n-3 PUFA, especially DHA, and an increase in SFA. The subcutaneous AT, but not visceral AT, correlated to the changes in PUFA and SFA, suggesting an abnormal essential FA metabolism in obese adolescents.

PMID: 17135608

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The North American Association for the Study of Obesity