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Metabolism. 2009 Dec;58(12):1802-8. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2009.06.010. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

Trans-fatty acids in the diet stimulate atherosclerosis.

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Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R2H 2A6.


Epidemiological evidence has associated dietary trans-fatty acids (TFAs) with coronary heart disease. It is assumed that TFAs stimulate atherosclerosis, but this has not been proven. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of consuming 2 concentrations of TFAs obtained from commercially hydrogenated vegetable shortening on atherosclerotic development in the presence or absence of elevated dietary cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice were fed 1 of 7 experimental diets for 14 weeks: low regular fat (LR), low trans-fat (LT), regular high fat, high trans-fat (HT), or a diet containing 2% cholesterol with low regular fat (C + LR), low trans-fat (C + LT), or high trans-fat (C + HT). The extent of lesion development was quantified by en face examination of the dissected aortae. Dietary cholesterol supplementation significantly elevated serum cholesterol levels. Surprisingly, this rise was partially attenuated by the addition of TFAs (C + LT and C + HT) in the diet. Serum triglyceride levels were elevated with the higher-fat diets and with the combination of trans-fat and cholesterol. Animals consuming TFAs in the absence of dietary cholesterol developed a significantly greater extent of aortic atherosclerotic lesions as compared with control animals (LT > LR and HT > regular high fat). Atherosclerotic lesions were more extensive after cholesterol feeding, but the addition of TFAs to this atherogenic diet did not advance atherosclerotic development further. In summary, TFAs are atherogenic on their own; but they do not stimulate further effects beyond the strongly atherogenic effects of dietary cholesterol.

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