Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on postprandial triglycerides and monocyte activation

Atherosclerosis. 2012 Nov;225(1):166-72. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Objective: Epidemiologic studies suggest that elevated postprandial triglycerides (ppTG) are associated with future cardiovascular events. Monocyte activation plays an important role in vascular diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids (n3-FA) lower fasting TG levels. The effects of n3-FA on ppTG and the role of ppTG for monocyte activation are insufficiently understood.

Methods and results: 23 healthy volunteers and 30 non-diabetic patients with documented coronary artery disease were subjected to an oral TG tolerance test (OTTT) consisting of 80 g cream fat or to water as control (H(2)O). Patients were treated with 4 g n3-FA/day or placebo for 3 weeks in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. Relative postprandial TG increase reached its maximum 4 h after fat intake (185.1 ± 10.9% of baseline). n3-FA reduced fasting TG from 137.1 ± 12.9 to 112.2 ± 8.6 mg/dl (p < 0.05), and maximum ppTG concentrations from 243.6 ± 24.6 to 205.8 ± 17.1 mg/dl (p < 0.05), while relative TG increase (192.8 ± 12.7%) was comparable to placebo. Relative monocytopenia and neutrophilia were detected following fat intake, which was unaffected by n3-FA and also detectable in the H(2)O group. Serum chemotactic cytokine (MCP1 and fractalkine) concentrations and monocyte migration were not affected by fat intake or n3-FA. Monocyte activation markers CD11b and CD14, monocyte subpopulations CD16(+)CD14(high) and CD16(+)CD14(low), sICAM serum levels and markers of oxidative stress remained unchanged by fat intake or n3-FA.

Conclusion: The postprandial TG increase does not stimulate monocytes beyond their circadian activation patterns. n3-FA reduce fasting TG and the postprandial TG increase. n3-FA may therefore allow to prospectively study whether selected patients benefit from TG-lowering independent of LDL- and HDL-cholesterol.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemokine CCL2 / blood
  • Chemokine CX3CL1 / blood
  • Cholesterol
  • Coronary Artery Disease / drug therapy
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / physiology*
  • Postprandial Period / drug effects
  • Triglycerides / blood*


  • CCL2 protein, human
  • CX3CL1 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Chemokine CX3CL1
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol