Objectives: To investigate the impact of apolipoprotein E (apoE) genotype on the response of the plasma lipoprotein profile to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) versus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intervention in humans.
Methods and results: 38 healthy normolipidaemic males, prospectively recruited on the basis of apoE genotype (n=20 E3/E3 and n=18 E3/E4), completed a double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over trial, consisting of 3 x 4 week intervention arms of either control oil, EPA-rich oil (ERO, 3.3g EPA/day) or DHA-rich oil (DRO, 3.7g DHA/day) in random order, separated by 10 week wash-out periods. A significant genotype-independent 28% and 19% reduction in plasma triglycerides in response to ERO and DRO was observed. For total cholesterol (TC), no significant treatment effects were evident; however a significant genotype by treatment interaction emerged (P=0.045), with a differential response to ERO and DRO in E4 carriers. Although the genotype x treatment interaction for LDL-cholesterol (P=0.089) did not reach significance, within DRO treatment analysis indicated a 10% increase in LDL (P=0.029) in E4 carriers with a non-significant 4% reduction in E3/E3 individuals. A genotype-independent increase in LDL mass was observed following DRO intervention (P=0.018). Competitive uptake studies in HepG2 cells using plasma very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) from the human trial, indicated that following DRO treatment, VLDL(2) fractions obtained from E3/E4 individuals resulted in a significant 32% (P=0.002) reduction in LDL uptake relative to the control.
Conclusions: High dose DHA supplementation is associated with increases in total cholesterol in E4 carriers, which appears to be due to an increase in LDL-C and may in part negate the cardioprotective action of DHA in this population subgroup.