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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;61(3):314-25. Epub 2006 Sep 13.

Influence of three rapeseed oil-rich diets, fortified with alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid on the composition and oxidizability of low-density lipoproteins: results of a controlled study in healthy volunteers.

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Department of Human Nutrition, University of Applied Sciences, Muenster, Germany.



To compare the individual effects of dietary alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) fatty acid composition, ex vivo LDL oxidizability and tocopherol requirement.


A randomized strictly controlled dietary study with three dietary groups and a parallel design, consisting of two consecutive periods. Sixty-one healthy young volunteers, students at a nearby college, were included. Forty-eight subjects (13 males, 35 females) completed the study.


Subjects received a 2-week wash-in diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (21% energy) followed by experimental diets enriched with about 1% of energy of ALA, EPA or DHA for 3 weeks. The omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids were provided with special rapeseed oils and margarines. The wash-in diet and the experimental diets were identical, apart from the n-3 fatty acid composition and the tocopherol content, which was adjusted to the content of dienoic acid equivalents.


Ex vivo oxidative susceptibility of LDL was highest after the DHA diet, indicated by a decrease in lag time (-16%, P<0.001) and an increase in the maximum amount of conjugated dienes (+7%, P<0.001). The EPA diet decreased the lag time (-16%, P<0.001) and the propagation rate (-12%, P<0.01). Tocopherol concentrations in LDL decreased in the ALA group (-13.5%, P<0.05) and DHA group (-7.3%, P<0.05). Plasma contents of tocopherol equivalents significantly decreased in all three experimental groups (ALA group: -5.0%, EPA group: -5.7%, DHA group: -12.8%). The content of the three n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid differently increased in the LDL: on the ALA diet, the ALA content increased by 89% (P<0.001), on the EPA diet the EPA content increased by 809% (P<0.001) and on the DHA diet, the DHA content increased by 200% (P<0.001). In addition, the EPA content also enhanced (without dietary intake) in the ALA group (+35%, P<0.01) and in the DHA group (+284%, P<0.001).


Dietary intake of ALA, EPA or DHA led to a significant enrichment of the respective fatty acid in the LDL particles, with dietary EPA preferentially incorporated. In the context of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet, ALA enrichment did not enhance LDL oxidizability, whereas the effects of EPA and DHA on ex vivo LDL oxidation were inconsistent, possibly in part due to further changes in LDL fatty acid composition.

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