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14-04-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

High n-3 fatty acid intake reduces obesity-associated disease risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: High intakes of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with reduced severity of dyslipidemia and low-grade systemic inflammation among overweight and obese persons, report researchers.

"The strong positive associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations were substantially attenuated in adults with high red blood cell counts of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid," write Zeina Makhoul (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA) and colleagues in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"This may help inform recommendations for n-3 fatty acid intakes in the reduction of obesity-related disease risk," they say.

The researchers performed a cross-sectional analysis of 330 Yup'ik Eskimos - a population with mean EPA and DHA intakes over 20 times greater than the general US population - living in Southwest Alaska to investigate whether intakes of EPA and DHA, measured as percentages of total red blood cell fatty acids, modify associations between obesity and chronic disease risk biomarkers.

Makhoul and team report that among the Eskimo population, median levels of EPA and DHA were 2.6% and 7.3%, respectively.

Regression analysis revealed that the observed positive associations for body mass index (BMI) with triglycerides and CRP were significantly attenuated with increasing EPA and DHA concentrations.

Indeed, at low levels of EPA (<1.5%) and DHA (<5.8%), an increase in BMI from 25 to 35 kg/m2 was associated with respective 106% and 156% increases in triglycerides (99.5 and 137.8 mg/dl [1.12 and 1.56 mmol/l]), whereas at high EPA (>3.9%) and DHA (>8.2%) concentrations the corresponding increases were only 23% and 18% (13.9 and 12.0 mg/dl [0.16 and 0.14 mmol/l]).

Similarly, the predicted increases in CRP associated with an increase in BMI from 25 to 35 kg/m2 at low EPA and DHA concentrations were 61% and 35% (1.2 and 0.8 mg/l), respectively, compared with high levels of fatty acids, where the respective levels of CRP increased by 50% (0.5 mg/l) with high EPA and decreased by 34% (0.5 mg/l) with high DHA.

These results suggest that higher intakes of n-3 fatty acids could protect overweight and obese persons against obesity-associated dyslipidemia and low-grade systemic inflammation, write the authors.

They propose that future research should look at using high-dose n-3 fatty acid supplementation as a potential treatment method for attenuating risk for obesity-related disease, such as diabetes and heart disease.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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