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J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Apr;20(2 Suppl):97-105.

High-energy diets, fatty acids and endothelial cell function: implications for atherosclerosis.

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Department of Animal Sciences, and Graduate Center for Nutritional Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40506-0054, USA.


Diets high in fat and/or calories can lead to hypertriglyceridemia and postprandial lipemia and thus are considered a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis. Plasma chylomicron levels are elevated in humans after consuming a high-fat meal, and hepatic synthesis of VLDL is increased when caloric intake is in excess of body needs. High lipoprotein lipase activity and subsequent hydrolysis of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins may be an important source of elevated concentrations of fatty acid anions in the proximity to the endothelium and hence a major risk factor for atherosclerosis. We have shown that selected fatty acids, as well as lipoprotein lipase-derived remnants of lipoproteins isolated from hypertriglyceridemic subjects, can activate vascular endothelial cells and disrupt endothelial integrity. Our studies suggest that omega-6 fatty acids, and especially linoleic acid, cause endothelial cell dysfunction most markedly as well as can potentiate TNF-mediated endothelial cell injury. We propose that high-energy diets, and especially diets rich in linoleic acid, are atherogenic by contributing to an imbalance in cellular oxidative stress/antioxidant status of the endothelium, which can lead to activation of oxidative stress-responsive transcription factors, inflammatory cytokine production and the expression of adhesion molecules. Our data also suggest that nutrients, which have antioxidant and/or membrane stabilizing properties, can protect endothelial cells. These findings contribute to the understanding of the interactive role of high fat/calorie diets and subsequent hypertriglyceridemia with inflammatory components and nutrients that exhibit antiatherogenic properties in the development of atherosclerosis. Moreover, results from our research further support the concept that high-fat/calorie diets and associated postprandial hypertriglyceridemia are significant risk factors for atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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