Connection between specific unsaturated fats and vascular inflammation

December 20, 2001

Inflammation of the endothelial cells that line arterial walls is an early event in the development of cardiovascular disease. The exposure of endothelial cells to some dietary fatty acids stimulates the induction of inflammatory genes that are associated with the development of atherosclerotic plaques. In their new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Toborek et al. exposed isolated human endothelial cells to specific fatty acids to determine what amount of damage, if any, was produced.

The experiments were conducted using endothelial cells that were harvested from human umbilical veins and then exposed to mono- and polyunsaturated 18-carbon fatty acids commonly found in the diet: linoleic acid, linolenic acid, or oleic acid. Of the three fatty acids tested, linoleic acid markedly induced mRNA transcripts of inflammation-associated genes, including tumor necrosis factor and vascular cell adhesion molecule, while activating transcription factors NF-kB and AP-1 according to reporter gene constructs. Linolenic acid produced a more moderate pattern of inflammation, while exposure to oleic acid had either no effect or diminished the inflammation-associated response. These findings support previous clinical studies, which have shown that oleic acid has protective effects on arterial endothelial cells.

An editorial by Rutledge highlights the concept that specific fatty acids can, without any modification, create a proinflammatory environment in the endothelium of the vascular wall. This finding suggests that the reliance on measurements of classic blood lipid indexes, such as HDL and LDL cholesterol, may need to be augmented by more comprehensive determinations of plasma fatty acid concentrations.
Toborek, Michal et al. Unsaturated fatty acids selectively induce an inflammatory environment in human endothelial cells. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:119-25.

Rutledge, John C. Links between food and vascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:4.

This media release is provided by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition to provide current information on nutrition-related research. This information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, consult your doctor. To see the complete text of this article, please go to:

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American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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