BACKGROUND: Consumption of fish or fish oils rich in the n-3 long chain PUFA EPA and DHA may improve multiple risk factors for CVD.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether regular consumption of foods enriched with n-3 long-chain PUFA can improve n-3 long-chain PUFA status (erythrocytes) and cardiovascular health.

METHOD: Overweight volunteers with high levels of triacylglycerols (TG; >1·6 mmol/l) were enrolled in a 6-month dietary intervention trial conducted in Adelaide (n 47) and Perth (n 39), and randomised to consume control foods or n-3-enriched foods to achieve an EPA + DHA intake of 1 g/d. Test foods were substituted for equivalent foods in their regular diet. Erythrocyte fatty acids, plasma TG and other CVD risk factors were monitored at 0, 3 and 6 months.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences between groups for blood pressure, arterial compliance, glucose, insulin, lipids, C-reactive protein (CRP) or urinary 11-dehydro-thromboxane B2 (TXB2) over 6 months, even though regular consumption of n-3-enriched foods increased EPA + DHA intake from 0·2 to 1·0 g/d. However, the n-3 long-chain PUFA content of erythrocytes increased by 35 and 53 % at 3 and 6 months, respectively, in subjects consuming the n-3-enriched foods. These increases were positively associated with measures of arterial compliance and negatively associated with serum CRP and urinary 11-dehydro-TXB2 excretion.

CONCLUSION: Sustainable increases in dietary intakes and erythrocyte levels of n-3 long-chain PUFA can be achieved through regular consumption of suitably enriched processed foods. Such increases may be associated with reduced CV risk.