Highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in humans have similar triacylglycerol-lowering effects but divergent effects on serum fatty acids.Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 66(3):649-59AJ
To compare the effects of highly purified ethyl ester concentrates of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on serum lipids, apolipoproteins, and serum phospholipid fatty acids in humans, we conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design intervention study. Healthy nonsmoking men (n = 234) aged 36-56 y were randomly assigned to dietary supplementation with 3.8 g EPA/d, 3.6 g DHA/d, or 4.0 g corn oil/d (placebo) for 7 wk. Serum triacylglycerols decreased 26% (P < 0.0001) in the DHA group and 21% (P = 0.0001) in the EPA group compared with the corn oil group. Although not significant, net decreases in serum triacylglycerols were consistently greater in the DHA group across all quartiles of baseline triacylglycerol concentrations. Serum high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol increased 0.06 mmol/L (P = 0.0002) in the DHA group. In the EPA group, serum total cholesterol decreased 0.15 mmol/L (P = 0.02) and apolipoprotein A-I decreased 0.04 g/L (P = 0.0003). In the DHA group, serum phospholipid DHA increased by 69% and EPA increased by 29%, indicating retroconversion of DHA to EPA. In the EPA group, serum phospholipid EPA increased by 297% whereas DHA decreased by 15%, suggesting that EPA is not elongated to DHA in humans. The serum phospholipid ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids increased in both groups, whereas the relative changes in n-6 fatty acids suggested possible alterations in liver desaturation activity in the DHA group. We conclude that both DHA and EPA decrease serum triacylglycerols, but have differential effects on lipoprotein and fatty acid metabolism in humans.