Management of hyperlipidaemia remains a cornerstone therapy for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) has been shown to modulate blood lipid profiles and reduce the risk of developing CVD. However, studies relating objective measures of long-term dietary n-3 PUFA intake and circulating lipid levels in older adults are limited. Thus, we aimed to determine whether there is an association between erythrocyte n-3 PUFA status (omega-3 index, O3I) and blood lipid profiles in older adults.

A sample of adults aged 65-95 years who participated in the Retirement Health and Lifestyle Study was evaluated. Outcome measures included O3I (% eicosapentaenoic acid+% docosahexaenoic acid) and fasting blood lipid profiles [total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol and triglyceride (TG)]. Two hundred and seventy-six subjects were included in the analyses. The mean±SD age was 77.6±7.4 years, and 40.9% were males.

O3I was significantly higher in females compared to males. O3I was inversely associated with plasma TG (P<.001) and TC/HDL-cholesterol ratio (P<.05), and positively associated with HDL-cholesterol (P<.05), in all subjects. Associations between O3I and TG were evident in both females (r=-0.250, P<.01) and males (r=-0.225, P<.05). In females only, the odds of being hypertriglyceridaemic were highest in those with lowest O3I (P=.006). Trends for hypercholesterolaemia and elevated LDL risk were converse between males and females. Long-term n-3 PUFA status is associated with blood lipid profiles in older Australians.

Our findings support the development and implementation of age-specific dietary strategies to reduce the risk of CVD via improving the O3I.