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Lipids. 1996 Mar;31 Suppl:S51-6.

A new relationship between total/high density lipoprotein cholesterol and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

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Boston University Medical Center, Massachusetts, USA.


Dietary and plasma fatty acids have been linked to total cholesterol but not to the ratio of total/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (TC/HDLC). To evaluate the relationship between dietary and plasma levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and TC/HDLC, we analyzed cross-sectional and longitudinal data using 519 plasma samples (50% men, 50% women) from subjects participating in the Framingham Heart Study and results from a study feeding diets rich in either n-6 linoleic acid or n-3 alpha-linolenic acid with or without fish oil supplements (n-3 derivatives). Values of TC/HDLC are inversely related to the percent of plasma PUFA when both variables are measured at the same time in different subjects, R = 0.82, P < 0.000001. PUFA in phospholipids increase in response to increased dietary intake of different PUFA, either n-3 or n-6 or fish oils. There was a highly significant inverse relationship between TC/HDLC and the percent of PUFA in phospholipids, R = 0.97, P < 0.001. The relationship was similar regardless of the source and type of dietary fatty acids. A similar relationship existed when only the baseline points were considered. When plasma PUFA % increases, either in response to a diet high in PUFA or across different subjects, TC/HDLC ratios decline. Evaluation of plasma fatty acid profiles and increased balanced dietary intake of PUFA to bring fatty acid profiles of subjects with low PUFA plasma levels closer to the profile of a healthy reference group is an effective approach to reduce high TC/HDLC. Reductions of more than 50% in TC/HDLC appear feasible with dietary modification alone. Further research, into fatty acid metabolic activity may determine the biochemical basis of common dyslipidemias.

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