New blood test may help track individual fat intake

McMaster University researchers have developed a precise and reliable blood test to monitor the intake of fats by individuals. This blood test may serve as a tool to guide public health policy related to healthy eating.

New blood test may help track individual fat intake
Philip Britz-McKibbin, Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, McMaster University. Image Credit: JD Howell, McMaster University.

To date, the establishment of reliable guidelines has been a considerable challenge for nutritional epidemiologists because they need to depend on study participants, resolutely capturing their own consumption, producing results that are inclined to human errors, and selective reporting, especially in the case of high-fat diets.

Chemists have devised a test for detecting specific non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs), a type of circulating free fatty acid that can be quantified using an insignificant volume of a blood sample. The study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Epidemiologists need better ways to reliably assess dietary intake when developing nutritional recommendations. The food we consume is highly complex and difficult to measure when relying on self-reporting or memory recall, particularly in the case of dietary fats. There are thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to in foods, both processed and natural.”

Philip Britz-McKibbin, Study Lead Author and Professor, Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, McMaster University

The research was a combination of two research projects performed by Britz McKibbin in association with Sonia Anand in the Department of Medicine and with Stuart Phillips in the Department of Kinesiology.

Initially, the researchers evaluated the habitual diet of pregnant women in their second trimester, which is a crucial developmental stage for the fetus. Some women, who were consuming omega-3 fish oil supplements, were asked to inform about their average intake of full-fat dairy products and oily fish.

They were subsequently tested with the new technology. The scientists also tracked the variations in omega-3 NEFAs in women adhering to high-dose omega-3 fish oil supplementation as compared to a placebo.

The researchers effectively demonstrated that specific blood NEFAs closely corresponded with the diets and/or supplements reported by the women, indicating that the dietary biomarkers may act as an objective tool for assessing the intake of fats.

Fat intake is among the most controversial aspects of nutritional public health policies given previously flawed low-fat diet recommendations, and the growing popularity of low-carb/high-fat ketogenic based diets. If we can measure it reliably, we can begin to study such questions as: Should pregnant women take fish oil? Are women deficient in certain dietary fats? Does a certain diet or supplement lead to better health outcomes for their babies?

Philip Britz-McKibbin, Study Lead Author and Professor, Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, McMaster University

The researchers have planned to analyze the impact of NEFAs and other metabolites linked to dietary exposures during pregnancy and how they may influence childhood health outcomes with respect to metabolic syndrome, obesity, and risk of chronic diseases later in life.

Source:
Journal reference:

Azab, S. M., et al. (2020) Serum non-esterified fatty acids have utility as dietary biomarkers of fat intake from fish, fish oil and dairy in women. Journal of Lipid Research. doi.org/10.1194/jlr.D120000630.

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