Effects of supplementing n-3 fatty acid enriched eggs and walnuts on cardiovascular disease risk markers in healthy free-living lacto-ovo-vegetarians: a randomized, crossover, free-living intervention study

Background

Plant and marine n-3 fatty acids (FA) may favorably modify select markers of cardiovascular disease risk. Whether supplementing the habitual diet of lacto-ovo-vegetarians (LOV) with walnuts (containing α-linolenic acid, ALA) and n-3 FA enriched eggs (containing primarily docosahexaenoic acid, DHA and ALA) would have equivalent effects on CVD risk factors is explored in this study.

Method

In this study, 20 healthy free-living LOVs following their habitual diet were randomly assigned in a crossover design to receive one of three supplements: n-3 FA enriched egg (6/week), walnuts (28.4 g, 6/week) or a standard egg, 6/week (control) for 8 weeks each with 4-wk washout between treatments. Erythrocyte membrane fatty acids, serum lipids and inflammatory markers were measured at the end of each treatment.

Result

Dietary compliance was observed by an expected increase in erythrocyte membrane ALA following the walnut treatment and in DHA following the n-3 FA enriched egg treatment. Walnut treatment lowered serum triacylglycerol, total cholesterol and Apo B (p < 0.05) compared to the standard egg but not the n-3 FA enriched egg treatment. However, walnut treatment significantly reduced total: HDL cholesterol ratio compared to both egg treatments. There were no differences between treatments for any of the inflammatory markers.

Conclusion

For LOV, a direct source of DHA such as n-3 FA enriched eggs seems necessary to increase membrane levels of DHA. However for producing an overall favorable blood lipid profile, daily consumption of a handful of walnuts rich in ALA may be a preferred option for lacto-ovo vegetarian.