Background: Plant and marine n-3 fatty acids (FA) may favorably modify select markers of cardiovascular disease risk. Whether supplementing the habitual diet of lacto-ovo-vegetarians (LOV) with walnuts (containing α-linolenic acid, ALA) and n-3 FA enriched eggs (containing primarily docosahexaenoic acid, DHA and ALA) would have equivalent effects on CVD risk factors is explored in this study.
Methods: In this study, 20 healthy free-living LOVs following their habitual diet were randomly assigned in a crossover design to receive one of three supplements: n-3 FA enriched egg (6/week), walnuts (28.4 g, 6/week) or a standard egg, 6/week (control) for 8 weeks each with 4-wk washout between treatments. Erythrocyte membrane fatty acids, serum lipids and inflammatory markers were measured at the end of each treatment.
Results: Dietary compliance was observed by an expected increase in erythrocyte membrane ALA following the walnut treatment and in DHA following the n-3 FA enriched egg treatment. Walnut treatment lowered serum triacylglycerol, total cholesterol and Apo B (p < 0.05) compared to the standard egg but not the n-3 FA enriched egg treatment. However, walnut treatment significantly reduced total: HDL cholesterol ratio compared to both egg treatments. There were no differences between treatments for any of the inflammatory markers.
Conclusions: For LOV, a direct source of DHA such as n-3 FA enriched eggs seems necessary to increase membrane levels of DHA. However for producing an overall favorable blood lipid profile, daily consumption of a handful of walnuts rich in ALA may be a preferred option for lacto-ovo vegetarian.