STRASBOURG, FRANCE. Obesity is a growing problem among adolescents and is often accompanied by metabolic syndrome (MS). Metabolic syndrome involves a cluster of several metabolic abnormalities including overweight (specifically abdominal adiposity), insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels, and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Whereas several studies have explored relationships between fish oil and weight loss or gain, researchers in France have examined whether a deficiency of DHA (which is found in fish oil) is linked to obesity.
Researchers at the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg now report that overweight adolescents and overweight adolescents with MS exhibit significant differences in the fatty acid content of plasma phospholipids when compared to their non-overweight peers. Their study involved 60 12-year-olds (30 boys and 30 girls) with normal weight and 60 12-year-olds who were overweight. Twenty-five per cent of the overweight children had been diagnosed with MS as well (none of the normal weight children had MS). Analyses of the phospholipid phase of the blood plasma revealed several important differences between the overweight and normal-weight groups. There was a highly significant difference in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) concentration with normal-weight subjects having a substantially higher level. Normal-weight participants also had a significantly higher ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to standard fatty acid (SFAs). Furthermore, overweight adolescents with MS had even lower levels of DHA and lower PUFA/SFA ratios than did those who were merely overweight. Could there be a link between DHA and weight?
The researchers conclude that a diet providing a high ratio of PUFAs to SFAs and, more specifically, a high intake of long-chain PUFAs such as DHA may protect obese persons against the development of metabolic syndrome.
Klein-Platat, Carine, et al. Plasma fatty acid composition is associated with the metabolic syndrome and low-grad inflammation in overweight adolescents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, 2005, pp. 1178-84
Phinney, Stephen D. Fatty acids, inflammation, and the metabolic syndrome. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, 2005, pp. 1151-52 (editorial)