Fish Oil Protects Cardio Health by a Variety of Mechanisms
In the experimental studies reported in this review, dietary n-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil had profound hypolipidemic effects in normal subjects and in hypertriglyceridemic patients with combined hyperlipidemia (type II-b) and types IV and V hyperlipidemia. In these carefully controlled metabolic experiments, dramatic reductions occurred in plasma triglycerides and to a lesser extent in plasma total cholesterol. Reductions in VLDL, chylomicrons, remnants, LDL, apo B, and apo E were also noted. HDL changes varied from subject to subject. These plasma lipoprotein changes occurred in subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus as well, without deterioration of diabetic control. Similar results are reported in two other papers in this volume. Fish oil did not cause deterioration of diabetic control. Whereas the mechanism of the hypolipidemic action of the n-6 rich vegetable oils containing linoleic acid such as corn or safflower oil still remains obscure, the mechanism of the hypolipidemic action of the n-3 fatty acids in fish oil is well documented. The synthesis of triglyceride and VLDL in the liver is greatly reduced by n-3 fatty acids. At the same time, the turnover of VLDL in plasma is shortened. In another study, LDL production was decreased. Combined with other dietary manipulations, such as a reduction in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, the use of n-3 fatty acids to treat hyperlipidemia, especially hypertriglyceridemia, appears to have a well-supported rationale. Fish oil combined with a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet has been shown to produce complementary effects. Total plasma cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were lowered by the low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet, whereas plasma triglyceride and VLDL were decreased by the fish oil. In most situations, the use of fish oil supplements should be regarded as pharmacologic therapy, particularly effective in severe hypertriglyceridemic states (e.g., chylomicronemia). However, a lifelong diet rich in fish may be protective against atherosclerosis as well. Further studies are required to delineate exact doses and precise indications for the use of fish oil in different types of hyperlipidemias and to differentiate the effects, if any, of the two major n-3 fatty acids in fish oil, EPA and DHA. The hypolipidemic effects of n-3 fatty acids coupled with their known antithrombotic actions (secondary to changes in prostaglandin secretion, platelet function, inhibition of growth factors, and enhancement of endothelial-derived relaxation factor) appear to have an important potential role in the control of coronary heart disease and other atherosclerotic disorders. Moreover, fish oil may prevent the "chylomicronemia" syndrome of type V hyperlipidemia.
Connor WE, DeFrancesco CA, Connor SL. N-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Effects on plasma lipoproteins and hypertriglyceridemic patients. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 June Department of Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201-3098.