[Protective effect of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids on the development of cardiovascular disease]

Nutr Hosp. May-Jun 2001;16(3):78-91.
[Article in Spanish]


Cardiovascular disease has a multifactorial aetiology, as is illustrated by the existence of numerous risk indicators, many of which can be influenced by dietary means. In this article, the effects of unsaturated fatty acids on cardiovascular disease are reviewed, with special emphasis on the modifications of the lipoprotein profile and the mechanism by which fatty acids may affect the immune response on the development of the atherosclerotic lesion. Atherosclerosis occurs fundamentally in three stages: dysfunction of the vascular endothelium, fatty streak and fibrous cap formation. Each of the three stages is regulated by the action of vasoactive molecules, growth factors and cytokines, mediators of the immune response. Dietary lipid quality can affect the lipoprotein metabolism, altering their concentrations in the blood, permitting a greater or lesser recruitment of them in the artery wall. The replacement of dietary saturated fat by mono- or polyunsaturated fats significantly lowers the plasma-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels. Likewise, an enriched monounsaturated fatty acid diet prevents LDL oxidative modifications more than an enriched polyunsaturated diet, and the oxidation of LDL in patients with peripheral vascular disease mediated by n-3 fatty acids can be reduced by the simultaneous consumption of olive oil. However, strong controversy surrounds the effect of the different unsaturated fatty acids. The type of dietary fat can directly or indirectly influence some of the mediating factors of the immune response; n-3 fatty acids have powerful antiinflammatory properties. Dietary fatty acids strongly determine the susceptibility of lipoproteins to oxidation, which also has an impact on the activation of molecules of adhesion and other inflammatory factors. Moreover, several works have demonstrated a direct effect of fatty acids on the genetic expression of many of those factors. Finally, certain aspects of blood platelet function, blood coagulability, and fibrinolytic activity associated with cardiovascular risk, are modulated by dietary fatty acids; n-3 fatty acids strongly inhibits platelet aggregation and activate thrombolytic processes.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Arteriosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Calcinosis / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / physiology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Diet, Atherogenic
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / therapeutic use*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Fatty Acids / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / therapeutic use*
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Fibrosis
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Lipoproteins / physiology
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Models, Animal
  • Oleic Acid / pharmacology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Receptors, Immunologic / physiology
  • Receptors, Lipoprotein*
  • Receptors, Scavenger
  • Risk Factors
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class B
  • Thrombophilia / epidemiology
  • Thrombophilia / etiology
  • Thrombophilia / prevention & control


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipoproteins
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Lipoprotein
  • Receptors, Scavenger
  • Scarb1 protein, mouse
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class B
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Oleic Acid