Dietary Echium Oil Increases Plasma and Neutrophil Long-Chain (n-3) Fatty Acids and Lowers Serum Triacylglycerols in Hypertriglyceridemic Humans

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Abstract

A wealth of evidence indicates that consumption of fish or dietary fish oils containing long-chain (n-3) PUFA such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is associated with cardiovascular benefit, including a reduction in circulating triacylglycerol concentrations and reduced mortality from coronary heart disease. Shorter-chain dietary (n-3) PUFA such as α-linolenic acid from vegetable oils are inefficiently converted to EPA and DHA and do not possess the hypotriglyceridemic properties attributed to fish oils. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of dietary Echium oil, a plant oil containing the 18-carbon (n-3) PUFA stearidonic acid, on tissue fatty acid content and serum triacylglycerol concentrations in hypertriglyceridemic humans. Asymptomatic subjects with mild-to-moderate hypertriglyceridemia were enrolled in an open-labeled study. Subjects underwent a 4-wk lead-in period and were then instructed to follow the National Cholesterol Education Program Step 1 diet. Subjects (n = 11) whose serum triacylglycerol concentrations remained between 3.4 and 5.1 mmol/L (300 and 450 mg/dL) were instructed to consume 15 g of Echium oil daily for 4 wk. During the treatment period, serum triacylglycerol concentrations decreased by 21%, or 0.87 ± 0.26 mmol/L (mean ± SD) compared with baseline (P < 0.05); 8 of 11 subjects had a decrease in serum triacylglycerols ranging from 13 to 52% with a decrease from baseline of 30%, or 1.26 ± 0.41 mmol/L (mean ± SD). There were no significant changes in any other clinical laboratory variables. Concentrations of long-chain (n-3) PUFA, including EPA, increased (P < 0.05) in plasma and neutrophils when subjects consumed Echium oil. In conclusion, dietary plant oils rich in stearidonic acid are metabolized to longer-chain, more unsaturated (n-3) PUFA. These oils appear to possess hypotriglyceridemic properties typically associated with fish oils. J. Nutr. 134: 1406-1411, 2004.

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