gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

Effect of dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids on long-term weight change in EPIC-Heidelberg

Meeting Abstract

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  • Katharina Nimptsch - Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg
  • Gabriele Berg - Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld
  • Jakob Linseisen - Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds291

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Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Nimptsch et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: Adult weight gain is an important factor in the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. Although different fat types do not differ distinctly with respect to energy density, experimental data suggests that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) is less prone to lead to weight gain than a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). The aim of this study was to investigate the association between intake of the PUFAs linoleic, alpha-linolenic and arachidonic acid and prospective weight change.

Material and Methods: In 9,182 male and 10,867 female EPIC-Heidelberg participants, weight change occurring during a mean follow-up time of 6.5 years was expressed as mean annual weight change relative to baseline weight (%/year) and categorized into four groups (weight loss: <-0.5%/year, stable weight ±0.5%/year, small weight gain 0.5-1.5%/year, large weight gain >1.5%/year). The association between energy-adjusted PUFA intake (assessed by food frequency questionnaire) and prospective weight change was analyzed using multinomial logistic regression analysis in a multivariate model representing the effect of substituting calories from MUFAs by calories from a specific PUFA. Odds ratios (OR) describe the relative probability of falling into a certain weight change category with stable weight as outcome reference, according to tertiles of PUFA intake.

Results: The PUFAs linoleic acid and arachidonic acid were positively associated with weight gain. Comparing women in the highest versus lowest tertile of linoleic acid intake OR was 1.21 (95% confidence interval 1.05-1.40) for small and 1.49 (1.22-1.83) for large weight gain. This association was similar, but not significant in men. In contrast, dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid was inversely associated with small [OR 0.87 (0.76-1.01)] and large [OR 0.81 (0.66-0.99)] weight gain in women, but not in men.

Conclusion: These results suggest different effects of individual fatty acids among the group of PUFAs on prospective weight gain.