Metabolomics Biomarkers for Fatty Acid Intake and Biomarker-Calibrated Fatty Acid Associations with Chronic Disease Risk in Postmenopausal Women

Ross L. Prentice, Sowmya Vasan, Lesley F. Tinker, Marian L. Neuhouser, Sandi L. Navarro, Daniel Raftery, GA Nagana Gowda, Mary Pettinger, Aaron K. Aragaki, Johanna W. Lampe, Ying Huang, Linda Van Horn, Jo Ann E. Manson, Robert B. Wallace, Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Simin Liu, Linda Snetselaar, Barbara V. Howard, Rowan T. ChlebowskiCheng Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: A substantial observational literature relating specific fatty acid classes to chronic disease risk may be limited by its reliance on self-reported dietary data. Objectives: We aimed to develop biomarkers for saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acid densities, and to study their associations with cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Women's Health Initiative (WHI) cohorts. Methods: Biomarker equations were based primarily on serum and urine metabolomics profiles from an embedded WHI human feeding study (n = 153). Calibration equations were based on biomarker values in a WHI nutritional biomarker study (n = 436). Calibrated intakes were assessed in relation to disease incidence in larger WHI cohorts (n = 81,894). Participants were postmenopausal women, aged 50–79 when enrolled at 40 United States Clinical Centers (1993–1998), with a follow-up period of ∼20 y. Results: Biomarker equations meeting criteria were developed for SFA, MUFA, and PUFA densities. That for SFA density depended somewhat weakly on metabolite profiles. On the basis of our metabolomics platforms, biomarkers were insensitive to trans fatty acid intake. Calibration equations meeting criteria were developed for SFA and PUFA density, but not for MUFA density. With or without biomarker calibration, SFA density was associated positively with risk of CVD, cancer, and T2D, but with small hazard ratios, and CVD associations were not statistically significant after controlling for other dietary variables, including trans fatty acid and fiber intake. Following this same control, PUFA density was not significantly associated with CVD risk, but there were positive associations for some cancers and T2D, with or without biomarker calibration. Conclusions: Higher SFA and PUFA diets were associated with null or somewhat higher risk for clinical outcomes considered in this population of postmenopausal United States women. Further research is needed to develop even stronger biomarkers for these fatty acid densities and their major components. This study is registered with identifier: NCT00000611.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2663-2677
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • biomarker
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • metabolomics
  • monounsaturated fatty acids
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • saturated fatty acids
  • type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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