Effects of docosahexaenoic acid on serum lipoproteins in patients with combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Jun;16(3):236-43. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1997.10718680.


Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of daily dietary supplementation with 1.25 g or 2.5 g of docosahexaenoic (DHA), in the absence of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), on serum lipids and lipoproteins in persons with combined hyperlipidemia (CHL) [serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) 130 to 220 mg/dL and triglycerides 150 to 400 mg/dL].

Methods: After a 6-week dietary stabilization period, subjects entered a 4-week single-blind placebo (vegetable oil) run-in phase. Those with adequate compliance during the the run-in were randomized into one of three parallel groups (placebo, 1.25, or 2.5 g/day DHA) for 6 weeks of treatment. Supplements were administered in a triglyceride form contained in gelatin capsules. Primary outcome measurements were plasma phospholipid DHA content, serum triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). LDL-C and non-HDL-C.

Results: The DHA content of plasma phospholipids increased dramatically (2 to 3 fold) in a dose-dependent manner. Significant (p < 0.05) changes were observed in serum triglycerides (17 to 21% reduction) and HDL-C (6% increase) which were of similar magnitude in both DHA groups. Non-HDL-C [+1.6 (NS) and +5.7% (p < 0.04)] and LDL-C [+9.3% (NS) and +13.6% (p < 0.001)] increased in the DHA treatment groups. All lipid effects reached an apparent steady state within the first 3 weeks of treatment.

Conclusion: Dietary DHA, in the absence of EPA, can affect lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with combined hyperlipidemia. The desirable triglyceride and HDL-C changes were present at a dose which did not significantly increased non-HDL-C or LDL-C. These preliminary findings suggest that dietary supplementation with 1.25 g DHA/day, provided in a triglyceride form, may be an effective tool to aid in the management of hypertriglyceridemia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Biological Availability
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Diet*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Triglycerides / blood*


  • Phospholipids
  • Triglycerides
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Cholesterol