Differential and shared effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid

The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) affect cell function and metabolism, but the differential effects of EPA and DHA are not known. In a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover study, we assessed the effects of 10-week supplementation with EPA-only and DHA-only (3 g/d), relative to a 4-week lead-in phase of high oleic acid sunflower oil (3 g/day, defined as baseline), on fasting serum metabolites in 21 subjects (9 men and 12 post-menopausal women) with chronic inflammation and some characteristics of metabolic syndrome. Relative to baseline, EPA significantly lowered the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates fumarate and α-ketoglutarate and increased glucuronate, UDP-glucuronate, and non-esterified DHA. DHA significantly lowered the TCA cycle intermediates pyruvate, citrate, isocitrate, fumarate, α-ketoglutarate, and malate, and increased succinate and glucuronate.

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Fig: PLS-DA score plot. Primary metabolites are shown at baseline (blue) and at the end of the EPA (green) and DHA (red) supplementation phases.

Pathway analysis showed that both EPA and DHA significantly affected the TCA cycle, the interconversion of pentose and glucuronate, and alanine, and aspartate and glutamate pathways (FDR < 0.05) and that DHA had a significantly greater effect on the TCA cycle than EPA. Our results indicate that EPA and DHA exhibit both common and differential effects on cell metabolism in subjects with chronic inflammation and some key aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Chang, WC., So, J. & Lamon-Fava, S. Differential and shared effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on serum metabolome in subjects with chronic inflammation. Sci Rep 11,16324 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-95590-7

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