Circulating Palmitoleate Strongly and Independently Predicts Insulin Sensitivity in Humans

  1. Norbert Stefan, MD1,
  2. Konstantinos Kantartzis, MD1,
  3. Nora Celebi, MD1,
  4. Harald Staiger, PHD1,
  5. Jürgen Machann, PHD2,
  6. Fritz Schick, MD, PHD2,
  7. Alexander Cegan, PHD3,
  8. Michaela Elcnerova, PHD3,
  9. Erwin Schleicher, PHD1,
  10. Andreas Fritsche, MD1 and
  11. Hans-Ulrich Häring, MD1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology, Vascular Medicine, Nephrology and Clinical Chemistry, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany;
  2. 2Section on Experimental Radiology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany;
  3. 3Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemical Technology, University of Pardubice, Pardubice, Czech Republic.
  1. Corresponding author: Norbert Stefan, norbert.stefan{at}


OBJECTIVE We investigated whether palmitoleate, which prevents insulin resistance in mice, predicts insulin sensitivity in humans.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS The fasting fatty acid pattern in the plasma free fatty acid (FFA) fraction was determined in 100 subjects at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Insulin sensitivity was estimated during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) at baseline and after 9 months of lifestyle intervention and measured during the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp (n = 79).

RESULTS Circulating palmitoleate (OGTT:F ratio = 8.2, P = 0.005; clamp:F ratio = 7.8, P = 0.007) but not total FFAs (OGTT:F ratio = 0.6, P = 0.42; clamp:F ratio = 0.7, P = 0.40) correlated positively with insulin sensitivity, independently of age, sex, and adiposity. High baseline palmitoleate predicted a larger increase in insulin sensitivity. For 1-SD increase in palmitoleate, the odds ratio for being in the highest versus the lowest tertile of adjusted change in insulin sensitivity was 2.35 (95% CI 1.16–5.35).

CONCLUSIONS Circulating palmitoleate strongly and independently predicts insulin sensitivity, suggesting that it plays an important role in the pathophysiology of insulin resistance in humans.


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    • Received March 19, 2009.
    • Accepted October 27, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 33 no. 2 405-407
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