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Nutritional significance and metabolism of very long chain fatty alcohols and acids from dietary waxes.

Very long chain fatty alcohols obtained from plant waxes and beeswax have been reported to lower plasma cholesterol in humans. This review discusses nutritional or regulatory effects produced by wax esters or aliphatic acids and alcohols found in unrefined cereal grains, beeswax, and many plant-derived foods. Reports suggest that 5-20 mg per day of mixed C24-C34 alcohols, including octacosanol and triacontanol, lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 21%-29% and raise high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 8%-15%. Wax esters are hydrolyzed by a bile salt-dependent pancreatic carboxyl esterase, releasing long chain alcohols and fatty acids that are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies of fatty alcohol metabolism in fibroblasts suggest that very long chain fatty alcohols, fatty aldehydes, and fatty acids are reversibly inter-converted in a fatty alcohol cycle. The metabolism of these compounds is impaired in several inherited human peroxisomal disorders, including adrenoleukodystrophy and Sjögren-Larsson syndrome. Reports on dietary management of these diseases confirm that very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA) are normal constituents of the human diet and are synthesized endogenously. Concentrations of VLCFA in blood plasma increase during fasting and when children are placed on ketogenic diets to suppress seizures. Existing data support the hypothesis that VLCFA exert regulatory roles in cholesterol metabolism in the peroxisome and also alter LDL uptake and metabolism.[1]


  1. Nutritional significance and metabolism of very long chain fatty alcohols and acids from dietary waxes. Hargrove, J.L., Greenspan, P., Hartle, D.K. Exp. Biol. Med. (Maywood) (2004) [Pubmed]
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