Fatty-Fish Consumption Alters HDL-Particle Profile

March 07, 2014

KUOPIO, FINLAND – A diet rich in fatty fish, including salmon, rainbow trout, and Baltic herring, altered the profile of HDL particles in a small study of Finnish men and women with impaired glucose metabolism[1].

Although total-, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol levels did not change, for those who consumed this healthy diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, the intake of fish was strongly correlated with an increased concentration of large HDL particles, including an increase in the average diameter of HDL particles and an increase in the concentrations of large HDL lipid components.

In the study, published online March 3, 2014 in PLoS One, 131 subjects with impaired glucose metabolism and features of the metabolic syndrome were randomized to one of three diets. The "healthy diet" consisted of whole grains and grains that elicited a low insulin response, fatty fish three times per week, and three portions of bilberries per day. The second diet recommended only the addition of whole grain and grain products with low postprandial insulin response to the subjects' usual diet. With the third diet, the control arm, subjects added refined-wheat breads to their usual diet and restricted fish consumption to one meal per week.

In total, blood samples were analyzed in 37 of the 44 patients assigned to the healthy diet. Compared with the control and "grains" diet, there was a significant increase in n-3 fatty acids among those who added the three servings of fish per week. The change in concentrations of large HDL particles was positively associated with the changes in fish intake and in serum n-3 fatty-acid concentrations. There was no change in any of the measured metabolites among those who added whole grains and grains that elicited a low insulin response.

"The changes that we saw in large HDL particles could be related to those parameters that are functionally related to reverse cholesterol transport," conclude Dr Maria Lankinen (University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio) and colleagues. "Thus, our findings could partly explain the known protective effects of fish consumption against atherosclerosis."

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