American Journal of Kidney Diseases

Nonesterified Fatty Acids and Kidney Function Decline in Older Adults: Findings From the Cardiovascular Health Study

Published:February 03, 2021DOI:

      Rationale & Objective

      Circulating nonesterified fatty acids (NEFAs) make up a small portion of circulating lipids but are a metabolically important energy source. Excessive circulating NEFAs may contribute to lipotoxicity in many tissues, including the kidneys. We investigated the relationship between total circulating NEFA concentration and kidney outcomes in older, community-dwelling adults.

      Study Design

      Prospective cohort study.

      Setting & Participants

      4,698 participants ≥65 years of age in the Cardiovascular Health Study who underwent total fasting serum NEFA concentration measurements in 1992-1993.


      Fasting serum NEFA concentration at one time point.


      Three primary outcomes: estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) decline of ≥30%, the composite of eGFR decline ≥ 30% or kidney failure with replacement therapy, and change in eGFR. These outcomes were assessed over 4- and 13-year periods.

      Analytical Approach

      Logistic regression for the dichotomous outcomes and mixed effects models for the continuous outcome, with sequential adjustment for baseline covariates. Inverse probability of attrition weighting was implemented to account for informative attrition during the follow-up periods.


      Serum NEFA concentrations were not independently associated with kidney outcomes. In unadjusted and partially adjusted analyses, the highest quartile of serum NEFA concentration (compared with lowest) was associated with a higher risk of ≥30% eGFR decline at 4 years and faster rate of decline of eGFR. No associations were evident after adjustment for comorbidities, lipid levels, insulin sensitivity, medications, and vital signs: the odds ratio for the eGFR decline outcome was 1.33 (95% CI, 0.83-2.13), and the difference in eGFR slope in the highest versus lowest quartile of serum NEFA concentration was −0.15 (95% CI, −0.36 to 0.06) mL/min/1.73 m2 per year.


      Single NEFA measurements, no measurements of post-glucose load NEFA concentrations or individual NEFA species, no measurement of baseline urine albumin.


      A single fasting serum NEFA concentration was not independently associated with long-term adverse kidney outcomes in a cohort of older community-living adults.

      Index Words

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