September 29, 2020

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and it has many possible causes. One of the most well-known risk factors is hyperlipidemia, which presents as a high level of lipids, like triglycerides or cholesterol, in the blood. Scientists and doctors are still looking for effective ways to reduce cardiovascular risk from hyperlipidemia—and according to new research, fish oil may be part of the solution.

Recently, a team including Peter Havel, DVM, PhD, of UC Davis and the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) found that targeting a protein known as angiopoietin-like protein-3 (or ANGPTL3) could be helpful for managing cardiovascular disease.

In the study, the scientists gave 59 male rhesus macaques flavored, fructose-sweetened beverages daily in addition to their regular diet. A subset of macaques also received a whole fish oil supplement. The fructose supplementation allowed researchers to model symptoms of metabolic syndromes seen in humans, including insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia. This model also rapidly increased levels of triglycerides and certain lipoproteins in the blood, mirroring human risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The results showed ANGPTL3 levels increased simultaneously with lipid levels in monkeys fed a high-sugar diet. It was also found that inhibiting the production of ANGPTL3 resulted in lower levels of several lipids and lipoproteins in circulation, which suggests the protein could be a helpful therapeutic target. What’s more, the researchers found that increases in the protein and lipids in the blood could be prevented if the animals were also provided with the fish oil supplement.

While the exact mechanisms remain unknown, Havel hopes to clarify in future studies exactly how components of fish oil influence ANGPTL3 production and circulating lipid levels. Understanding this could help scientists develop new interventions for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Heart health is incredibly important, which is why NPRC scientists are actively conducting research on cardiovascular diseases and treatments. Learn more about their breakthrough discoveries by visiting this link.

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