New Discovery: Fatty Fish Offers Additional Health Benefits

by Tatsuya Nakamura
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lipophilic index

According to a recent study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland, the consumption of fatty fish has been found to provide further advantages for individuals with impaired glucose metabolism or coronary heart disease.

The study focused on the lipophilic index, which serves as an indicator of cell membrane fluidity. Remarkably, the research revealed that individuals who consumed fatty fish experienced a reduction in their lipophilic index, indicating improved fluidity within their cell membranes. Notably, this positive outcome was not observed among participants who consumed lean fish or camelina sativa oil.

The findings, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, showcased a noteworthy association between a lowered lipophilic index and increased mean size and concentration of larger HDL particles. These correlations suggest potential cardiovascular benefits for those with improved membrane fluidity.

The lipophilic index plays a vital role in describing the fluidity of cell membranes, which can significantly impact cell function and the operation of membrane-bound proteins. The length and saturation of fatty acids present in the membranes influence their fluidity. Consequently, the lipophilic index can be calculated using fatty acids from serum lipids or erythrocyte membranes.

While earlier studies have suggested the positive influence of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish on cardiovascular risk, further research is still required to explore the underlying mechanisms. On the other hand, camelina oil, which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid—an essential omega-3 fatty acid—does not currently have established associations with membrane fluidity.

To investigate the effects of fish and camelina sativa oil intake on the lipophilic index, the researchers analyzed data from two randomized clinical trials. The first study involved 79 men and women with impaired glucose tolerance, while the second study included 33 men and women with cardiovascular disease.

In both trials, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups for a 12-week intervention (camelina oil group, fatty fish group, lean fish group, and control group in the first study) or to fatty fish, lean fish, or control groups for an 8-week intervention in the second study. The lipophilic index was calculated based on erythrocyte membrane fatty acids in the first study and serum phospholipid fatty acids in the second study.

The results revealed that consuming four meals of fatty fish per week for the duration of the study reduced the lipophilic index, indicating improved membrane fluidity. This enhanced fluidity has previously been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular issues. Furthermore, a lower lipophilic index was associated with larger HDL particles, which are also known to correlate with reduced cardiovascular risk. Notably, the consumption of lean fish or camelina sativa oil did not affect the lipophilic index.

Reference: “Fatty fish consumption reduces lipophilic index in erythrocyte membranes and serum phospholipids” by Arja T. Lyytinen, Monira Yesmean, Suvi Manninen, Maria Lankinen, Monika Bhalke, Linda Fredrikson, Reijo T. Käkelä, Katariina Öörni and Ursula S. Schwab, 17 April 2023, Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
DOI: 10.1016/j.numecd.2023.04.011

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about lipophilic index

What are the main findings of the study?

The study found that consuming fatty fish can lower the lipophilic index, indicating improved cell membrane fluidity. This reduction in lipophilic index was associated with larger HDL particles and a reduced cardiovascular risk. Lean fish or camelina sativa oil did not show the same effects.

What is the lipophilic index?

The lipophilic index is a measure of cell membrane fluidity. A lower lipophilic index suggests better fluidity in cell membranes. It is influenced by the length and saturation of fatty acids in the membranes.

What are the potential cardiovascular benefits of improved membrane fluidity?

Improved membrane fluidity, as indicated by a lower lipophilic index, has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular issues. The study found that individuals with a reduced lipophilic index had larger HDL particles, which are also linked to a decreased cardiovascular risk.

What is the significance of fatty fish consumption?

Fatty fish consumption has been previously associated with beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk due to the presence of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. This study further supports the potential cardiovascular benefits of consuming fatty fish.

How was the study conducted?

The study utilized data from two randomized clinical trials. One trial involved individuals with impaired glucose metabolism, while the other trial included individuals with coronary heart disease. Participants were divided into different groups, including those consuming fatty fish, lean fish, camelina sativa oil, or serving as controls, and their lipophilic index was measured based on fatty acids in their erythrocyte membranes or serum phospholipids.

Did lean fish or camelina sativa oil show similar effects?

No, the study did not observe a reduction in lipophilic index or improved membrane fluidity among participants consuming lean fish or camelina sativa oil. The findings suggest that the specific fatty acids present in fatty fish may contribute to the observed benefits.

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