High Energy Diets

High-Energy Diets, Fatty Acids and Endothelial Cell Function: Implications for Atherosclerosis

Bernhard Hennig, PhD, RD, FACN, Michal Toborek, MD, PhD, FACN, and Craig J. McClain, MD, FACN

Departments of Animal Sciences (B.H.) and Surgery (M.T.), and Graduate Centers for Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology (B.H., M.T., C.J.M.), University of Kentucky, Lexington, and Department of Medicine, University of Louisville, Louisville (C.J.M.), Kentucky [bhennig@pop.uky.edu]

Diets high in fat and/or calories can lead to hypertriglyceridemia and postprandial lipemia and thus are considered a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis. Plasma chylomicron levels are elevated in humans after consuming a high-fat meal, and hepatic synthesis of VLDL is increased when caloric intake is in excess of body needs. High lipoprotein lipase activity and subsequent hydrolysis of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins may be an important source of elevated concentrations of fatty acid anions in the proximity to the endothelium and hence a major risk factor for atherosclerosis. We have shown that selected fatty acids, as well as lipoprotein lipase-derived remnants of lipoproteins isolated from hypertriglyceridemic subjects, can activate vascular endothelial cells and disrupt endothelial integrity. Our studies suggest that omega-6 fatty acids, and especially linoleic acid, cause endothelial cell dysfunction most markedly as well as can potentiate TNF-mediated endothelial cell injury. We propose that high-energy diets, and especially diets rich in linoleic acid, are atherogenic by contributing to an imbalance in cellular oxidative stress/antioxidant status of the endothelium, which can lead to activation of oxidative stress-responsive transcription factors, inflammatory cytokine production and the expression of adhesion molecules. Our data also suggest that nutrients, which have antioxidant and/or membrane stabilizing properties, can protect endothelial cells. These findings contribute to the understanding of the interactive role of high fat/calorie diets and subsequent hypertriglyceridemia with inflammatory components and nutrients that exhibit antiatherogenic properties in the development of atherosclerosis. Moreover, results from our research further support the concept that high-fat/calorie diets and associated postprandial hypertriglyceridemia are significant risk factors for atherosclerosis.

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