Red Blood Cell Eicosapentaenoic Acid Inversely Relates to MRI-Assessed Carotid Plaque Lipid Core Burden in Elders at High Cardiovascular Risk

Nutrients. 2017 Sep 20;9(9):1036. doi: 10.3390/nu9091036.


Supplemental marine omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has an anti-atherosclerotic effect. Clinical research on EPA supplied by the regular diet and atherosclerosis is scarce. In the framework of the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) trial, we conducted a cross-sectional study in 161 older individuals at high vascular risk grouped into different stages of carotid atherosclerosis severity, including those without ultrasound-detected atheroma plaque (n = 38), with plaques <2.0 mm thick (n = 65), and with plaques ≥2.0 mm (n = 79). The latter were asked to undergo contrast-enhanced 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and were subsequently grouped into absence (n = 31) or presence (n = 27) of MRI-detectable plaque lipid, a main feature of unstable atheroma plaques. We determined the red blood cell (RBC) proportion of EPA (a valid marker of long-term EPA intake) at enrolment by gas chromatography. In multivariate models, EPA related inversely to MRI-assessed plaque lipid volume, but not to maximum intima-media thickness of internal carotid artery, plaque burden, or MRI-assessed normalized wall index. The inverse association between EPA and plaque lipid content in patients with advanced atherosclerosis supports the notion that this fatty acid might improve cardiovascular health through stabilization of advanced atheroma plaques.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; diet; fish; imaging; omega-3.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / blood*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnosis
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood*
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / blood*
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / diagnosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid