Introduction: Conflicting findings in both interventional and observational studies have resulted in a lack of consensus on the benefits of ω3 fatty acids in reducing disease risk. This may be due to individual variability in response. We used a multi-platform lipidomic approach to investigate both the consistent and inconsistent responses of individuals comprehensively to a defined ω3 intervention.
Methods: The lipidomic profile including fatty acids, lipid classes, lipoprotein distribution, and oxylipins was examined multi- and uni-variately in 12 healthy subjects pre vs. post six weeks of ω3 fatty acids (1.9 g/d eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and 1.5 g/d docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]).
Results: Total lipidomic and oxylipin profiles were significantly different pre vs. post treatment across all subjects (p=0.00007 and p=0.00002 respectively). There was a strong correlation between oxylipin profiles and EPA and DHA incorporated into different lipid classes (r(2)=0.93). However, strikingly divergent responses among individuals were also observed. Both ω3 and ω6 fatty acid metabolites displayed a large degree of variation among the subjects. For example, in half of the subjects, two arachidonic acid cyclooxygenase products, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and thromboxane B2 (TXB2), and a lipoxygenase product, 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE) significantly decreased post intervention, whereas in the other half they either did not change or increased. The EPA lipoxygenase metabolite 12-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid (12-HEPE) varied among subjects from an 82% decrease to a 5,000% increase.
Conclusions: Our results show that certain defined responses to ω3 fatty acid intervention were consistent across all subjects. However, there was also a high degree of inter-individual variability in certain aspects of lipid metabolism. This lipidomic based phenotyping approach demonstrated that individual responsiveness to ω3 fatty acids is highly variable and measurable, and could be used as a means to assess the effectiveness of ω3 interventions in modifying disease risk and determining metabolic phenotype.