Various saturated fatty acids have different effects on blood lipids and insulin secretion in experiments. The effect of long-term consumption of specific and different classes of saturated fatty acids on the risk of gallstone disease in humans is unknown.
We prospectively studied consumption of saturated fatty acids and risk of gallstone disease in a cohort of 44,524 US men from 1986 to 2002. Intake of saturated fatty acids was assessed using a validated semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Newly diagnosed gallstone disease was ascertained biennially.
During 584,679 person-years of follow-up, we documented 2350 incident cases of gallstone disease, of which 1387 cases required cholecystectomy. Compared with men in the lowest quintile of dietary intake of long-chain saturated fats, after adjustment for age and other potential risk factors, the relative risk of gallstone disease for men in the highest quintile was 1.24 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.02, 1.50, P for trend = 0.03], and the relative risk of cholecystectomy for men in the highest quintile was 1.41 (CI, 1.09, 1.82, P for trend = 0.008). Consumption of medium-chain saturated fatty acids or short-chain saturated fatty acids was unrelated to the risk.
Our results suggest that a higher consumption of long-chain saturated fatty acids may enhance the risk of gallstone disease in men.