Background: Inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease. We examined whether dietary supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3) affects the levels of inflammatory markers in dyslipidaemic patients.
Methods: We recruited 76 male dyslipidaemic patients (mean age=51+/-8 years) following a typical Greek diet. They were randomly assigned either to 15 ml of linseed oil (rich in ALA) per day (n=50) or to 15 ml of safflower oil (rich in linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n-6)) per day (n=26). The ratio of n-6:n-3 in linseed oil supplemented group was 1.3:1 and in safflower oil supplemented group 13.2:1. Dietary intervention lasted for 3 months. Blood lipids and C-reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels were determined prior and after intervention. CRP and SAA were measured by nephelometry and IL-6 by immunoassay.
Results: Dietary supplementation with ALA decreased significantly CRP, SAA and IL-6 levels. The median decrease of CRP was 38% (1.24 vs. 0.93 mg/l, P=0.0008), of SAA 23.1% (3.24 vs. 2.39 mg/l, P=0.0001) and of IL-6 10.5% (2.18 vs. 1.7 pg/ml, P=0.01). The decrease of inflammatory markers was independent of lipid changes. Dietary supplementation with LA did not affect significantly CRP, SAA and IL-6 concentrations but decreased cholesterol levels.
Conclusions: Dietary supplementation with ALA for 3 months decreases significantly CRP, SAA and IL-6 levels in dyslipidaemic patients. This anti-inflammatory effect may provide a possible additional mechanism for the beneficial effect of plant n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in primary and secondary prevention of coronary artery disease.