Fish oils and plasma lipid and lipoprotein metabolism in humans

A critical review

William Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

971 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Epidemiological studies in Greenland Eskimos led to the hypothesis that marine oils rich in n-3 fatty acids (also referred to as omega (ω)-3 fatty acids) are hypolipidemic and ultimately antiatherogenic. Metabolically controlled trials in which large amounts of fish oil were fed to normal volunteers and hyperlipidemic patients showed that these fatty acids (FAs) are effective at lowering plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Although more recent trials using smaller, more practical doses of fish oil supplements have confirmed the hypotriglyceridemic effect, they have shown little effect on total cholesterol levels; hypertriglyceridemic patients have even experienced increases in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels of 10-20% while taking n-3 FA supplements. Discrepancies among fish oil studies regarding the effects of n-3 FAs on LDL-C levels may be understood by noting that, in the majority of studies reporting reductions in LDL-C levels, saturated fat intake was lowered when switching from the control diet to the fish oil diet. When fish oil is fed and saturated fat intake is constant, LDL-C levels either do not change or may increase. Levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol have been found to increase slightly (about 5-10%) with fish oil intake. Plasma apolipoprotien levels change in concert with their associated lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Although the decrease in triglyceride levels appears to result from an inhibition in hepatic triglyceride synthesis, the mechanisms leading to the increases in LDL and HDL have not been determined. Finally, fatty fish or linolenic acid may serve as alternative sources of long-chain n-3 FAs, but further studies will be needed to document their hypolipidemic and/or antiatherogenic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-807
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Volume30
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Fish Oils
Lipid Metabolism
Metabolism
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lipoproteins
Lipids
Plasmas
LDL Cholesterol
Triglycerides
Nutrition
Fats
Cholesterol
Inuits
Greenland
Diet
alpha-Linolenic Acid
Fish
HDL Cholesterol
Epidemiologic Studies
Healthy Volunteers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

Cite this

Fish oils and plasma lipid and lipoprotein metabolism in humans : A critical review. / Harris, William.

In: Journal of Lipid Research, Vol. 30, No. 6, 1989, p. 785-807.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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