Fatty acids and postprandial inflammation

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Postprandial inflammation is an independent factor in evaluating food quality in addition to the well known parameters of nutritional value, caloric content and amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Among the latter, the quality and quantity of fatty acids in a meal is a major determinant of the magnitude of postprandial inflammation. Purpose of this review is to describe this exciting new area of research and its repercussions in the way we, the consumers, and the food industry evaluate the type and quantity of fat in food.

Recent findings

A number of, by now classical, epidemiologic studies have documented a strong association between the type of fatty acids consumed and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Recently published reports suggest that the adverse effect of dietary fatty acids on cardiovascular health depends on their postprandial modification of innate immunity ending in the so-called ‘postprandial metabolic inflammation’.

Summary

The quantity of fat and its qualitative characteristics such as the percentage of saturated fatty acids and the ratio of n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in a meal have emerged as major determinants of the magnitude of postprandial inflammatory response. In this review, we will summarize all experimental evidence suggesting that the two families of PUFA appear to have antagonistic effects on postprandial inflammation, n-3 PUFA being anti-inflammatory while n-6 PUFA proinflammatory.

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