Our aim was to study the effects of increased dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on serum lipids and LDL fatty acid compositions.

To this end, a controlled parallel study was conducted in 74 healthy normolipidemic men and women aged 19-43 y. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 interventions and consumed a total intake of 4.4 g/d ALA (ALA group), 2.2 g/d EPA (EPA group), and 2.3 g/d DHA (DHA group) for 6 wk. Fatty acid ethyl esters were incorporated into margarines, which replaced the participant's normal spread. The ALA, EPA, or DHA intake led to a significant enrichment of the LDL with the respective (n-3) fatty acid. In addition, LDL EPA contents in the ALA group increased by 36% (P < 0.05) with no changes in LDL DHA. The EPA intervention led to an additional enrichment with DHA (24%; P < 0.001), whereas the DHA intervention further increased the amount of EPA (249%; P < 0.001).

ALA, EPA, or DHA intake did not affect fasting serum concentrations of total and LDL cholesterol, but fasting serum triacylglycerol concentrations significantly decreased in the EPA (-0.14 mmol/L) and DHA (-0.30 mmol/L) interventions and also in the ALA intervention (-0.17 mmol/L).

DHA intake significantly increased serum HDL cholesterol, whereas no changes were found with ALA or EPA intake.

In conclusion, the present data support the hypothesis that isolated dietary ALA, EPA, and DHA intakes lead to differential enrichment in LDL due to interconversion. Moderate amounts of ALA, EPA, and DHA are effective in improving lipid profiles of normolipidemic humans