Dietary α-linolenic acid diminishes experimental atherogenesis and restricts T cell-driven inflammation

Winnik, Stephan ; Lohmann, Christine ; Richter, Eva K. ; Schäfer, Nicola ; Song, Wen-Liang ; Leiber, Florian ; Mocharla, Pavani ; Hofmann, Janin ; Klingenberg, Roland ; Borén, Jan ; Becher, Burkhard ; FitzGerald, Garret A. ; Lüscher, Thomas F. ; Matter, Christian M. ; Beer, Jürg H.

In: European Heart Journal, 2011, vol. 32, no. 20, p. 2573-2584

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    Aims Epidemiological studies report an inverse association between plant-derived dietary α-linolenic acid (ALA) and cardiovascular events. However, little is known about the mechanism of this protection. We assessed the cellular and molecular mechanisms of dietary ALA (flaxseed) on atherosclerosis in a mouse model. Methods and results Eight-week-old male apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE−/−) mice were fed a 0.21 % (w/w) cholesterol diet for 16 weeks containing either a high ALA [7.3 % (w/w); n = 10] or low ALA content [0.03 % (w/w); n = 10]. Bioavailability, chain elongation, and fatty acid metabolism were measured by gas chromatography of tissue lysates and urine. Plaques were assessed using immunohistochemistry. T cell proliferation was investigated in primary murine CD3-positive lymphocytes. T cell differentiation and activation was assessed by expression analyses of interferon-γ, interleukin-4, and tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) using quantitative PCR and ELISA. Dietary ALA increased aortic tissue levels of ALA as well as of the n−3 long chain fatty acids (LC n−3 FA) eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid. The high ALA diet reduced plaque area by 50% and decreased plaque T cell content as well as expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and TNFα. Both dietary ALA and direct ALA exposure restricted T cell proliferation, differentiation, and inflammatory activity. Dietary ALA shifted prostaglandin and isoprostane formation towards 3-series compounds, potentially contributing to the atheroprotective effects of ALA. Conclusion Dietary ALA diminishes experimental atherogenesis and restricts T cell-driven inflammation, thus providing the proof-of-principle that plant-derived ALA may provide a valuable alternative to marine LC n−3 FA