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Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids

Abstract

Background:

N-3 fatty acids are associated with favorable, and obesity with unfavorable, concentrations of chronic disease risk biomarkers.

Objective:

We examined whether high eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid intakes, measured as percentages of total red blood cell (RBC) fatty acids, modify associations of obesity with chronic disease risk biomarkers.

Methods:

In a cross-sectional study of 330 Yup’ik Eskimos, generalized additive models (GAM) and linear and quadratic regression models were used to examine associations of BMI with biomarkers across RBC EPA and DHA categories.

Results:

Median (5th–95th percentile) RBC EPA and DHA were 2.6% (0.5–5.9%) and 7.3% (3.3–8.9%), respectively. In regression models, associations of BMI with triglycerides, glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein (CRP) and leptin differed significantly by RBC EPA and DHA. The GAM confirmed regression results for triglycerides and CRP: at low RBC EPA and RBC DHA, the predicted increases in triglycerides and CRP concentrations associated with a BMI increase from 25 to 35 were 99.5±45.3 mg/dl (106%) and 137.8±71.0 mg/dl (156%), respectively, for triglycerides and 1.2±0.7 mg/l (61%) and 0.8±1.0 mg/l (35%), respectively, for CRP. At high RBC EPA and RBC DHA, these predicted increases were 13.9±8.1 mg/dl (23%) and 12.0±12.3 mg/dl (18%), respectively, for triglycerides and 0.5±0.5 mg/l (50%) and −0.5±0.6 mg/l (−34%), respectively, for CRP.

Conclusions:

In this population, high RBC EPA and DHA were associated with attenuated dyslipidemia and low-grade systemic inflammation among overweight and obese persons. This may help inform recommendations for n-3 fatty acid intakes in the reduction of obesity-related disease risk.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all study participants and their communities and the CANHR research team that made this study and manuscript possible. We thank Irena King and her staff at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, for the red blood cell fatty acid analyses. We thank Mario Kratz for his thoughtful input. This project has been funded by a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant P20 RR016430, a Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence grant from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), and NIH grant R01 DK074842 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The contents of this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NCRR, NIDDK, NIH or the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Z Makhoul.

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Contributors: ZM, ARK, RG and BB designed the research; BL, AB, SEH, CBS, KS, PJH and BB conducted the research; ZM and RG analyzed the data; ZM, ARK and RG wrote the paper; ZM and ARK had primary responsibility for the final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Makhoul, Z., Kristal, A., Gulati, R. et al. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Eur J Clin Nutr 65, 808–817 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2011.39

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2011.39

Keywords

  • EPA
  • DHA
  • generalized additive models
  • Yup’ik eskimos
  • triglycerides
  • C-reactive protein

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