Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is associated with increased total plasma free fatty acid (FFA) concentrations and an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. The exact mechanisms by which the plasma FFA profile of subjects with T2DM changes is unclear, but it is thought that dietary fats and changes to lipid metabolism are likely to contribute. Therefore, establishing the changes in concentrations of specific FFAs in an individual’s plasma is important. Each type of FFA has different effects on physiological processes, including the regulation of lipolysis and lipogenesis in adipose tissue, inflammation, endocrine signalling and the composition and properties of cellular membranes. Alterations in such processes due to altered plasma FFA concentrations/profiles can potentially result in the development of insulin resistance and coagulatory defects. Finally, fibrates and statins, lipid-regulating drugs prescribed to subjects with T2DM, are also thought to exert part of their beneficial effects by impacting on plasma FFA concentrations. Thus, it is also interesting to consider their effects on the concentration of FFAs in plasma. Collectively, we review how FFAs are altered in T2DM and explore the likely downstream physiological and pathological implications of such changes.
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