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J Nutr. 2012 Jul;142(7):1297-303. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.158295. Epub 2012 May 23.

Changes in erythrocyte membrane trans and marine fatty acids between 1999 and 2006 in older Americans.

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Sanford Research, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD, USA.


Over the last several years, national programs to lower the content of industrially produced (IP) C18:1 and C18:2 trans fatty acids in foods have been implemented, but whether this has resulted in lower blood trans fatty acid levels is unknown. Likewise, an increased perception of the health benefits of fish oils rich in EPA and DHA may have resulted in an increase in consumption and blood levels of these fatty acids. To explore these issues, we analyzed the changes in RBC fatty acid composition between the 7th (1998-2001) and 8th (2005-2007) examination cycles in a random sample of the Framingham Offspring cohort. This was a retrospective cohort study of 291 participants from whom blood was drawn at both examinations and for whom complete covariate data were available. Overall, the proportion of trans fatty acids in RBC changed by -23% (95% CI: -26 to -21%). RBC EPA+DHA proportions increased by 41% (95% CI: 31 to 52%) in 38 individuals who were taking fish oil supplements at examination 8, but in 253 participants not taking fish oil, the proportion of RBC EPA+DHA did not change. In conclusion, in a random subsample of Framingham Offspring participants with serial observations over 6.7 y, the proportion of trans fatty acids in RBC decreased. Those of EPA+DHA increased in people taking fish oil supplements. These changes could potentially translate into a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

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