Serum nonesterified fatty acids have utility as dietary biomarkers of fat intake from fish, fish oil, and dairy in women.
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Nutritional studies rely on various biological specimens for FA determination, yet it is unclear how levels of serum NEFAs correlate with other circulating lipid pools. Here, we used a high-throughput method (<4 min/sample) based on multisegment injection-nonaqueous capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (MSI-NACE-MS) to investigate whether specific serum NEFAs have utility as biomarkers of dietary fat intake in women. We first identified circulating NEFAs correlated with long-term/habitual food intake among pregnant women with contrasting dietary patterns (n = 50). Acute changes in serum NEFA trajectories were also studied in nonpregnant women (n = 18) following high-dose (5 g/day) fish oil (FO) supplementation or isoenergetic sunflower oil placebo over 56 days. In the cross-sectional study, serum ω-3 FAs correlated with self-reported total ω-3 daily intake, notably EPA as its NEFA (r = 0.46; P = 0.001), whereas pentadecanoic acid was associated with full-fat dairy intake (r = 0.43; P = 0.002), outcomes consistent with results from total FA serum hydrolysates. In the intervention cohort, serum ω-3 NEFAs increased 2.5-fold from baseline within 28 days following FO supplementation, and this increase was most pronounced for EPA (P = 0.0004). Unlike for DHA, circulating EPA as its NEFA also strongly correlated to EPA concentrations measured from erythrocyte phospholipid hydrolysates (r = 0.66; P = 4.6 × 10-10) and was better suited to detect dietary nonadherence. We conclude that MSI-NACE-MS offers a rapid method to quantify serum NEFAs and objectively monitor dietary fat intake in women that is complementary to food-frequency questionnaires.
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