Free fatty acids and heart failure in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Sarah O. Nomura, Amy B. Karger, Natalie L. Weir, Joao A.C. Lima, George Thanassoulis, Michael Y. Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Free fatty acids (FFAs) may be associated with heart failure (HF) risk, but prospective research is lacking. Objective: This study investigated associations between fasting FFAs and HF incidence overall and by ejection fraction (EF) subtypes [HF with preserved EF (HFpEF) and HF with reduced EF (HFrEF)] to evaluate FFAs as a potential biomarker for HF risk prediction. Methods: This study was conducted in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) prospective cohort among 6,667 participants with complete baseline (2000-2002) FFAs and HF follow-up (through 2015). Associations between FFAs and HF incidence were evaluated with Cox proportional hazards regression. Cross-sectional associations between FFAs and HF risk markers were also evaluated using linear regression [N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), left ventricular (LV) mass index] and logistic regression [LV hypertrophy (LVH)]. Stratification and cross-product terms were utilized to evaluate differences by age, sex, race/ethnicity and diabetes. Results: FFAs were not associated with HF overall or with HFrEF. FFAs were not associated with HFpEF in the overall population or among males, but were borderline positively associated with risk among females (fully-adjusted tertile 3 vs. 1 HR=2.17, 95% CI: 1.06, 4.42) (sex P-interaction=0.05). FFAs were not associated with NT-proBNP, but were inversely associated with LV mass index and LVH with stronger associations among females (P-interaction≥0.10). Associations did not differ by age, race/ethnicity or diabetes status. Conclusions: FFAs generally do not appear to be an independent predictor for HF risk. Additional research is needed to confirm findings particularly studies evaluating associations by sex and EF subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-617
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of clinical lipidology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • Free fatty acids
  • Heart failure
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy
  • Left ventricular mass
  • N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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