Branched-Chain Fatty Acids | An Underexplored Class of Dairy Derived Fatty Acids

Alicia Dixon, Student Dietitian | View Author Bio

Branched-chain fatty acids are an underexplored area of nutrition that can have potentially great biological and health benefits.

In this blog you’ll learn:

  • What branched-chain fatty acids are
  • The health benefits of branched-chain fatty acids
  • Sources of branched-chain fatty acids

The Breakdown on Branched-Chain Fatty Acids

Branched-chain fatty acids are a type of fatty acid that can be found in the highest amount in dairy products. They play a role in the development of intestinal microbiota in animals such as cows. These fatty acids are made from rumen bacteria. A rumen is the largest stomach compartment in a cow’s body.

Health Benefits of Branched-Chain Fatty Acids

While there is currently no requirement for dietary intake, some research shows that dietary intake of branched-chain fatty acids needs to be higher to achieve potential health benefits in humans. These benefits include weight maintenance, energy homeostasis, and improvements in insulin sensitivity. Some animal studies also show that a diet containing branched-chain fatty acids is potentially beneficial in reducing inflammation, cancers, and metabolic disorders.

This research may spark questions about the link between the fat in dairy foods with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Recent observational studies have brought to light that eating dairy foods, regardless of fat content, is not associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes. It shows that different types of saturated fats will have different effects on health. For example, odd-chain saturated fatty acids found in dairy, such as pentadecanoic and heptadecanoic acids, were associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sources of Branched-Chain Fatty Acids

  • Dairy Products: milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, sour cream, ice cream, etc.
  • Nattō: a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans.
  • Beef
  • Tuna
  • Sauerkraut: fermented raw cabbage

References: 

Branched-Chain Fatty Acid

Branched Chain Fatty Acid (BCFA) Content of Foods and Estimated Intake in the United States

Branched-Chain Fatty Acids—An Underexplored Class of Dairy-Derived Fatty Acids

Research Roundup: Fermented Dairy Foods, Dietary Fat And More

What Do Milk Fat Percentages Mean?

Whole Milk vs. Reduced-Fat Dairy Foods and CVD

Could Dairy Fat Have Different Effects Than Other Fats Related To Type 2 Diabetes?

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