Impact of foods enriched with omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids [fish oil] on erythrocyte omega-3 levels and cardiovascular risk factors

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[Note: C-reactive protein (CRP) level in the blood is used as a measure of inflammation associated with atherosclerosis – hardening & narrowing of the arteries. In this study an increase in the omega-3 long-chain PUFA content of red blood cells (erythrocytes) was associated with reduced CRP levels.]

Journal: British Journal of Nutrition. 2007; 97:749-757

Authors and affiliations: Murphy KJ, Meyer BJ: Nutritional Physiology Research Center, Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia and School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia. [E-mail: peter.howe@unisa.edu.au ]

PMID: 17349088

Consumption of fish or fish oils rich in the n-3 [omega-3] long chain PUFA EPA and DHA may improve multiple risk factors for CVD [cardiovascular disease]. The objective of this study was to determine whether regular consumption of foods enriched with n-3 long-chain PUFA can improve n-3 long-chain PUFA status (erythrocytes) and cardiovascular health.

Overweight volunteers with high levels of triacylglycerols (TG; >1.6 mmol/l) were enrolled in a 6-month dietary intervention trial conducted in Adelaide (n 47) and Perth (n 39), and randomized to consume control foods or n-3-enriched foods to achieve an EPA + DHA intake of 1 g/d. Test foods were substituted for equivalent foods in their regular diet. Erythrocyte fatty acids, plasma TG and other CVD risk factors were monitored at 0, 3 and 6 months.

There were no significant differences between groups for blood pressure, arterial compliance, glucose, insulin, lipids, C-reactive protein (CRP) or urinary 11-dehydro-thromboxane B2 (TXB2) over 6 months, even though regular consumption of n-3-enriched foods increased EPA + DHA intake from 0.2 to 1.0 g/d. However, the n-3 long-chain PUFA content of erythrocytes increased by 35% and 53% at 3 and 6 months, respectively, in subjects consuming the n-3-enriched foods.

These increases were positively associated with measures of arterial compliance and negatively associated with serum CRP and urinary 11-dehydro-TXB2 excretion.

Sustainable increases in dietary intakes and erythrocyte levels of n-3 long-chain PUFA can be achieved through regular consumption of suitably enriched processed foods. Such increases may be associated with reduced CV risk.

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