Plasma levels of very-long-chain SFA (VLCSFA) are associated with the metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, the associations may vary by different biological activities of individual VLCSFA or population characteristics. We aimed to examine the associations of VLCSFA and MetS risk in Chinese adults. Totally, 2008 Chinese population aged 35–59 years were recruited and followed up from 2010 to 2012. Baseline MetS status and plasma fatty acids data were available for 1729 individuals without serious diseases. Among 899 initially metabolically healthy individuals, we identified 212 incident MetS during the follow-up. Logistic regression analysis was used to estimate OR and 95 % CI. Cross-sectionally, each VLCSFA was inversely associated with MetS risk; comparing with the lowest quartile, the multivariate-adjusted OR for the highest quartile were 0·18 (95 % CI 0·13, 0·25) for C20 : 0, 0·26 (95 % CI 0·18, 0·35) for C22 : 0, 0·19 (95 % CI 0·13, 0·26) for C24 : 0 and 0·16 (0·11, 0·22) for total VLCSFA (all Pfor trend<0·001). The associations remained significant after further adjusting for C16 : 0, C18 : 0, C18 : 3n-3, C22 : 6n-3, n-6 PUFA and MUFA, respectively. Based on follow-up data, C20 : 0 or C22 : 0 was also inversely associated with incident MetS risk. Among the five individual MetS components, higher levels of VLCSFA were most strongly inversely associated with elevated TAG (≥1·7 mmol/l). Plasma levels of VLCSFA were significantly and inversely associated with MetS risk and individual MetS components, especially TAG. Further studies are warranted to confirm the findings and explore underlying mechanisms.