Skip to main content

Microalgal docosahexaenoic acid decreases plasma triacylglycerol in normolipidaemic vegetarians: a randomised trial

  • Julia Geppert (a1), Veronika Kraft (a1), Hans Demmelmair (a1) and Berthold Koletzko (a1)

Triacylglycerol (TG) lowering effects of n−3 long-chain PUFA (n−3 LCPUFA) have been repeatedly demonstrated, but studies investigating the individual effects of EPA or DHA on plasma TG and lipoproteins in man are rare. The effects of a new DHA-rich, almost EPA-free microalgae oil (Ulkenia sp.) on plasma lipids and several safety parameters were investigated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design intervention study. Normolipidaemic vegetarians (eighty-seven females, twenty-seven males) consumed daily microalgae oil (0·94g DHA/d) or olive oil (as placebo) for 8 weeks. DHA supplementation decreased plasma TG by 23% from 1·08 (sem 0·07) to 0·83 (sem 0·04) mmol/l (p<0·001). Absolute TG decreases after DHA supplementation were inversely correlated to baseline TG concentrations (r −0·627, p<0·001). Plasma total, LDL and HDL cholesterol increased significantly in the DHA group, resulting in lower TG:HDL cholesterol and unchanged LDL:HDL and total cholesterol:HDL cholesterol ratios. The intake of DHA-rich microalgae oil did not result in any physiologically relevant changes of safety and haemostatic factors. In conclusion, DHA-rich oil from microalgae Ulkenia sp. was well tolerated and can be considered a suitable vegetarian source of n−3 LCPUFA. Although DHA supplementation improved some CHD risk factors (plasma TG, TG:HDL cholesterol ratio), LDL cholesterol increased. Therefore, the overall effects of this intervention on CHD risk deserve further investigation.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Microalgal docosahexaenoic acid decreases plasma triacylglycerol in normolipidaemic vegetarians: a randomised trial
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Microalgal docosahexaenoic acid decreases plasma triacylglycerol in normolipidaemic vegetarians: a randomised trial
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Microalgal docosahexaenoic acid decreases plasma triacylglycerol in normolipidaemic vegetarians: a randomised trial
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Professor Berthold Koletzko, fax +49 89 5160 3336, email
Hide All
Abbey M, Clifton P, Kestin M, Belling B & Nestel PEffect of fish oil on lipoproteins, lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase, and lipid transfer protein activity in humans. Arteriosclerosis (1990) 10, 8594.
Agren JJ, Hanninen O, Julkunen A, Fogelholm L, Vidgren H, Schwab U, Pynnonen O & Uusitupa MFish diet, fish oil and docosahexaenoic acid rich oil lower fasting and postprandial plasma lipid levels. Eur J Clin Nutr (1996) 50, 765771.
Austin MA, Hokanson JE & Edwards KLHypertriglyceridemia as a cardiovascular risk factor. Am J Cardiol (1998) 81, 7B12B.
Bonaa KH, Bjerve KS, Straume B, Gram IT & Thelle DEffect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids on blood pressure in hypertension. A population-based intervention trial from the Tromso study. N Engl J Med (1990) 322, 795801.
Buckley R, Shewring B, Turner R, Yaqoob P & Minihane AMCirculating triacylglycerol and apoE levels in response to EPA and docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in adult human subjects. Br J Nutr (2004) 92, 477483.
Conquer JA & Holub BJSupplementation with an algae source of docosahexaenoic acid increases (n-3) fatty acid status and alters selected risk factors for heart disease in vegetarian subjects. J Nutr (1996) 126, 30323039.
Conquer JA & Holub BJEffect of supplementation with different doses of DHA on the levels of circulating DHA as non-esterified fatty acid in subjects of Asian Indian background. J Lipid Res (1998) 39, 286292.
Davidson MH, Maki KC, Kalkowski J, Schaefer EJ, Torri SA & Drennan KBEffects of docosahexaenoic acidon serum lipoproteins in patients with combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Am Coll Nutr (1997) 16, 236243.
Fisher WR, Zech LA & Stacpoole PWApolipoprotein B metabolism in hypertriglyceridemic diabetic patients administered either a fish oil- or vegetable oil-enriched diet. J Lipid Res (1998) 39, 388401.
Friedewald WT, Levy RI & Fredrickson DSEstimation of the concentration of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in plasma, without use of the preparative ultracentrifuge. Clin Chem (1972) 18, 499502.
Gaziano JM, Hennekens CH, O'Donnell CJ, Breslow JL & Buring JE (1997) Fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. 96 25202525
Geppert J, Kraft V, Demmelmair H & Koletzko B (2005) Docosahexaenoicacid supplementation in vegetarians effectively increases omega-3 index: a randomized trial. Lipids. 40 870–814.
Griffin BAThe effect of n-3 fatty acids on low density lipoprotein subfractions. Lipids (2001) 36 S91S97
Grimsgaard S, Bonaa KH, Hansen JB & Myhre ES (1998) Effects of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on hemodynamics in humans. Am J Clin Nutr.68 5259
Grimsgaard S, Bonaa KH, Hansen JB & Nordoy A (1997) 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. 66 649659
Grover SA, Coupal L & Hu XP (1995) Identifying adults at increased risk of coronary disease. How well do the current cholesterol guidelines work?. JAMA. 274 801806
Grover SA, Palmer CS & Coupal LSerum lipid screening to identify high-risk individuals for coronary death. The results of the Lipid Research Clinics prevalence cohort. Arch Intern Med. (1994) 154 679684
Harris WS (1997) N-3 fatty acids and serum lipoproteins: human studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 65.1645S1654S
Hess D, Keller HE, Oberlin B, Bonfanti R & Schuep W (1991) Simultaneous determination of retinol, tocopherols, carotenes and lycopene in plasma by means of high-performance liquid chromatography on reversed phase. Int J Vit Nutr Res. 61 232238
Hodis HN (1999) Triglyceride-rich lipoprotein remnant particles and risk of atherosclerosis. Circulation. 99 28522854
Hokanson JE & Austin MA (1996) Plasma triglyceride level is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease independent of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level: a meta-analysis of population-based prospective studies. J Cardiovasc Risk. 3 213219
Illingworth DR, Harris WS & Connor WE (1984) Inhibition of low density lipoprotein synthesis by dietary omega-3 fatty acids in humans. Arteriosclerosis 4 270275
Inagaki M & Harris WSChanges in lipoprotein composition in hypertriglyceridemic patients taking cholesterol-free fish oil supplements. Atherosclerosis (1990) 82 237246
Kinosian B, Glick H & Garland G (1994) Cholesterol and coronary heart disease: predicting risks by levels and ratios. Ann Intern Med. 121 641647
Kinosian B, Glick H, Preiss L & Puder KL (1995) Cholesterol and coronary heart disease: predicting risks in men by changes in levels and ratios. J Invest Med. 43 443450
Knapp HR & FitzGerald GA (1989) The antihypertensive effects of fish oil. A controlled study of polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in essential hypertension. N Engl J Med. 320 10371043
Leigh-Firbank EC, Minihane AM, Leake DS, Wright JW, Murphy MC, Griffin BA & Williams CM (2002) Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from fish oils: differential associations with lipid responses. Br J Nutr. 87 435445
Lindsey S, Pronczuk A & Hayes KC (1992) Low density lipoprotein from humans supplemented with n-3 fatty acids depresses both LDL receptor activity and LDLr mRNA abundance in HepG2 cells. J Lipid Res. 33 647658
Lu G, Windsor SL & Harris WS (1999) Omega-3 fatty acids alter lipoprotein subfraction distributions and the in vitro conversion of very low density lipoproteins to low density lipoproteins. J Nutr Biochem. 10 151158
Lungershausen YK, Abbey M, Nestel PJ & Howe PRC (1994) Reduction of blood pressure and plasma triglycerides by omega-3 fatty acids in treated hypertensives. J Hypertens. 12 10411045
Mori TA, Bao DQ, Burke V, Puddey IB & Beilin LJ (1999) Docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid lowers ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate in humans. Hypertension 34 253260
Mori TA, Burke V, Puddey IB, Watts GF, O'Neal DN, Best tJD & Beilin LJ (2000) Purified eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids have differential effects on serum lipids and lipoproteins, LDL particle size, glucose, and insulin in mildly hyperlipidemic men. Am J Clin Nutr. 71 10851094
Nelson GJ, Schmidt PC, Bartolini GL, Kelley DS & Kyle D (1997) The effect of dietary docosahexaenoic acid on plasma lipoproteins and tissue fatty acid composition in humans. Lipids 32 11371146
Nestel PJ (2000) Fish oil and cardiovascular disease: lipids and arterial function.Am J Clin Nutr. 71 228231
Nestel P, Shige H, Pomeroy M, Cehun M, Abbey M & Raederstorff D (2002) The n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid increase systemic arterial compliance in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 76 326330
Rambjor GS, Walen AI, Windsor SL & Harris WS (1996) Eicosapentaenoic acid is primarily responsible for hypotriglyceridemic effect of fish oil in humans. Lipids. 31 S45S49
Sanders TAB & Hinds A (1992) The influence of a fish oil high in docosahexaenoic acid on plasma lipoprotein and vitamin E concentrations and haemostatic function in healthy male volunteers. Br J Nutr. 68 163173
Schectman G, Boerboom LE, Hannah J, Howard BV, Mueller RA & Kissebah AH (1996) Dietary fish oil decreases low-density-lipoprotein clearance in nonhuman primates. Am J Clin Nutr. 64 215221
Stark KD & Holub BJ (2004) Differential eicosapentaenoic acid elevations and altered cardiovascular disease risk factor responses after supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid in postmenopausal women receiving and not receiving hormone replacement therapy. Am J Clin Nutr. 79 765773
Surette ME, Whelan J, Lu GP, Broughton KS & Kinsella JE (1992) Dependence on dietary cholesterol for n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid-induced changes in plasma cholesterol in the Syrian hamster. J Lipid Res. 33 263271
Theobald HE, Chowienczyk PJ, Whittall R, Humphries SE & Sanders TAB (2004) LDL cholesterol-raising effect of low-dose docosahexaenoic acid in middle-aged men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 79 558563
Toft I, Bonaa KH, Ingebretsen OC, Nordoy A & Jenssen T (1995) Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on glucose homeostasis and blood pressure in essential hypertension: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 123 911918
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 116 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 172 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.