Subject: Cholesterol · Lipid profile
Cardiovascular diseases remain a global challenge, and lipid-associated biomarkers can predict cardiovascular events. Extensive research on cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3-PUFAs) is geared towards fish oil supplementation and fish-rich diets. Nevertheless, vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more popular across all segments of society, due to reasons as varied as personal, ethical and religious values, individual preferences and environment-related principles, amongst others. Due to the essentiality of PUFAs, plant sources of n3-PUFAs warrant further consideration. In this review, we have critically appraised the efficacy of plant-derived n3-PUFAs from foodstuffs and supplements upon lipid profile and selected cardiometabolic markers. Walnuts and flaxseed are the most common plant sources of n3-PUFAs, mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and feature the strongest scientific rationale for applicability into clinical practice. Furthermore, walnuts and flaxseed are sources of fibre, potassium, magnesium, and non-essential substances, including polyphenols and sterols, which in conjunction are known to ameliorate cardiovascular metabolism. ALA levels in rapeseed and soybean oils are only slight when compared to flaxseed oil. Spirulina and Chlorella, biomasses of cyanobacteria and green algae, are important sources of n3-PUFAs; however, their benefits upon cardiometabolic markers are plausibly driven by their antioxidant potential combined with their n3-PUFA content. In humans, ALA is not sufficiently bioconverted into eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. However, evidence suggests that plant sources of ALA are associated with favourable cardiometabolic status. ALA supplementation, or increased consumption of ALA-rich foodstuffs, combined with reduced omega-6 (n6) PUFAs intake, could improve the n3/n6 ratio and improve cardiometabolic and lipid profile.