Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Meera Penumetcha, PhD, RD

Second Advisor

Vijay Ganji, PhD, RD

Third Advisor

Neil Sidell, PhD


Background: Foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are susceptible to oxidation through heating or storage. Oxidized lipids are known to act as ligands for a transcription factor (PPAR-gamma) that affects adipocyte differentiation and insulin sensitivity.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the amounts of oxidation products of a variety of PUFA containing foods over time, and to determine whether extracted fats from these foods act as ligands for PPAR-gamma.

Method: To study the effect of room-temperature storage on oxidation, 5 foods (walnuts, sunflower seeds, ground flax, fish oil capsules, and infant formula) were purchased and stored at room temperature for 1, 2, and 3 months. To determine oxidation levels in fried foods, French fries and chicken nuggets were used. Fat was extracted from each food and the levels of oxidation products were analyzed by spectrophotometry and kits designed to measure oxidation products. Using a fluorescence polarization-based ligand screening assay kit, fat extracted from foods was analyzed for its binding affinity for PPAR-gamma.

Results: Among foods stored at room temperature, the levels of oxidation products did not change significantly with time. Most foods exhibited the highest levels of oxidation at the purchase date. Infant formula and ground flax demonstrated higher levels of oxidation products than did other foods. In preliminary ligand binding assays, extracted fat from French fries showed the greatest binding affinity for PPAR-gamma; a select few other oils showed slight affinity.

Discussion: Surprisingly, storage time did not affect oxidation levels. The greatest amount of oxidation may occur during pre-purchase storage conditions. The processing of formula and ground flax may be the cause of the relatively higher oxidation levels in those foods. The binding affinity for PPAR-gamma demonstrated by French fries needs further investigation.

Conclusion: Certain oxidized lipids from foods may act as ligands for PPAR-gamma. Further research is required not only to determine which component of these PUFA-containing foods activates PPAR-gamma but also to determine whether that component acts as an agonist or antagonist for PPAR-gamma.