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Lipids and cardiovascular/metabolic health

Association of red blood cell n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with plasma inflammatory biomarkers among the Quebec Cree population



We examined the prevalence of elevated plasma high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) concentrations and associations with red blood cell (RBC) long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn-3PUFA) in the James Bay Cree population from the province of Quebec (Canada).


A total of 744 Cree adults (18–91 years) from seven communities of Eastern James Bay were included in these cross-sectional analyses. Associations between RBC LCn-3PUFA and proinflammatory markers (hs-CRP, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)) were assessed by using multivariate general linear models with adjustment for sex, age and waist circumference. An arbitrary inflammation score was defined based on the sum of the quartiles of hs-CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α concentrations (range=3–12).


Elevated hs-CRP concentrations (>3 mg/l) were present in 46.9% (95% confidence interval (CI) 43.3–50.5) of the James Bay Cree population. RBC docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-3; C22:5n-3) was inversely associated with hs-CRP, TNF-α and the inflammation score (all P trend<0.02), whereas eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6n-3) in RBC were not associated with inflammation (all P trend>0.18). Among participants with RBC DPAn-3 levels above the median of the population, odds ratio of having an elevated inflammation score (9) was 0.67 (95% CI, 0.48–0.93) compared with participants below the median.


Results indicate that low-grade systemic inflammation is highly prevalent and that higher RBC DPAn-3 levels are associated with a lower risk of systemic inflammation in the James Bay Cree population.

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One of the primary authors of this research, Dr Eric Dewailly, died tragically in an accident on 17 June 2014, while on vacation in La Réunion with his family. Dr Dewailly was one of the leading figures in public and environmental health research in Canada and worldwide. His contributions to the study of contaminants and their impact on health among First Nations are among his numerous legacies. Dr Dewailly was passionate not only in research but also in life, being immensely appreciated by colleagues and friends. His leadership and engaging personality will be missed.

This is a report from the Nituuchischaayihtitaau Aschii Multi-Community Environment and Health Study in Iiyiyiu Aschii supported by the Cree people of northern Quebec, the Cree First Nations and the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) through financial contributions from Niskamoon Corporation. Niskamoon Corporation had no role in the design and conduct of the study; the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review or approval of the manuscript. The CBHSSJB was involved in the design and conduct of the study and the review and approval of the manuscript. We thank the coordinators, nurses, interviewers and other staff persons who worked at each stage of the survey process. We are also grateful to all study participants. Marie-Eve Labonté is recipient of doctoral scholarships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé (FRQS) and of a scholarship from the CBHSSJB through Niskamoon Corporation for the present work.

Author contributions

Éric Dewailly designed the research and collected data; Marie-Éve Labonté performed statistical analyses, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript; Benoît Lamarche, Michel Lucas and Patrick Couture participated in the analysis and interpretation of data; Benoît Lamarche has had full access to the data in the study and has primary responsibility for the final content of the paper. All authors critically reviewed the manuscript and approved its final version.

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Correspondence to B Lamarche.

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Marie-Eve Labonté has received funding from the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) through Niskamoon Corporation for the present work. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on European Journal of Clinical Nutrition website

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Labonté, MÈ., Dewailly, É., Lucas, M. et al. Association of red blood cell n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with plasma inflammatory biomarkers among the Quebec Cree population. Eur J Clin Nutr 68, 1042–1047 (2014).

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