BACKGROUND & AIMS: The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a clustering of various metabolic abnormalities which is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Due to its increasing prevalence, it has become an important public health concern. Altered fatty acid (FA) composition and desaturase activities have been associated with several metabolic diseases, including MetS. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the relationship of the plasma FA profile and desaturase activities with the MetS in a Mediterranean population at high risk of CVD. METHODS: Baseline data from 427 participants aged 55-80 years who took part in the interventional PREDIMED study were obtained. Individual FA was determined in plasma and desaturase activities were estimated from product/precursor ratios. Odds ratios (OR) and partial correlation coefficients were used to examine these relations with MetS and its components, respectively. RESULTS: We found higher levels of C14:0, C16:0, C16:1n-7, estimated Δ(9)- or stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD), and estimated Δ(6) desaturase (D6D), and lower levels of C18:2n-6 in people with MetS compared to those without it. After adjustment for several confounders, only higher quartiles of C14:0, C16:0, C16:1n-7, and D6D were found to be associated with an increasing prevalence of MetS, while higher quartiles of C18:2n-6 were inversely associated with MetS. High proportions of C14:0, C16:0, C16:1n-7, C20:3n-6, SCD, and D6D, and decreased proportions of C18:2n-6 and estimated Δ(5)-desaturase (D5D) were associated with adverse profiles of several metabolic risk factors. Women showed more unhealthy FA pattern and lipid profiles than men, but only among those with MetS. CONCLUSION: A FA composition and estimated desaturase activities consisting in high levels of SFA, SCD and D6D, and low levels of PUFA and D5D are associated with increased MetS probability and are characteristic of people presenting MetS, especially women. These findings support those observed in non-Mediterranean populations in which an altered FA profile and estimated desaturase activities are associated with MetS.