British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Effects of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from plant and marine origin on platelet aggregation in healthy elderly subjects

A. G. C. L Wensinga1, R. P. Mensinka1 c1 and G. Hornstraa1

a1 Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands

Abstract

In the present intervention study we compared the effects of α-linolenic acid with those of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on platelet aggregation in vitro and ex vivo in healthy non-institutionalized elderly subjects. We also compared the effects of α-linolenic acid on platelet aggregation in elderly subjects with those in younger volunteers. During a run-in period of 3 weeks all subjects (thirty-eight elderly (> 60 years) and twelve younger volunteers (< 35 years)) received a diet rich in oleic acid. For the next 6 weeks the elderly subjects received a diet rich in oleic acid (n 11), α-linolenic acid (n 14) (6·8 g/d) or EPA/DHA (n 13) (1·05 g EPA plus 0·55 g DHA). The younger subjects were given a diet rich in α-linolenic acid. The diets did not affect ADP- or collagen-induced platelet aggregation in vitro in either platelet-rich plasma or whole blood. The ex vivo platelet aggregation as measured with filtragometry was significantly decreased in the elderly group that received EPA/DHA compared with the α-linolenic acid (P = 0·006) and the oleic acid (P = 0·005) diet groups. Effects of α-linolenic acid were not age-dependent. Our results suggest that α-linolenic acid and EPA/DHA do not change in vitro platelet aggregation. Compared with oleic acid, EPA/DHA, but not α-linolenic acid, favourably affects ex vivo platelet aggregation in healthy elderly subjects.

(Received July 14 1998)

(Revised January 18 1999)

(Accepted April 05 1999)

Correspondence:

c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Ronald Mensink, fax +31 43 367 0976, email R.Mensink@HB.Unimaas.nl

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