AALBORG, DENMARK. It is increasingly clear that atherosclerosis is, at least partially, an inflammatory disease. There is also growing evidence that high blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks. Danish researchers now report a direct correlation between CRP levels and severity of atherosclerosis. They also suggest that CRP levels can be kept in check by frequent consumption of fish or fish oils. Their study involved 269 patients referred for angiography because of suspected coronary artery disease. Besides undergoing angiography the patients had their CRP levels measured and were also tested for the level of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA, respectfully; both found in fish oils) in their granulocytes (a type of white blood cell). They also filled out a questionnaire about their fish consumption.
The researchers found that patients with one or more coronary arteries blocked by 50 per cent or more had significantly higher CRP levels in their blood than had patients with no significant blockages. They also observed an inverse correlation between CRP levels and the level of DHA in granulocytes. The level of DHA in granulocytes, in turn, was closely related to fish consumption. The researchers conclude that DHA has an anti-inflammatory effect which results in lower CRP levels and suggest that fish consumption may decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.
Madsen, Trine, et al. C-reactive protein, dietary n-3 fatty acids, and the extent of coronary artery disease. American Journal of Cardiology, Vol. 88, November 15, 2001, pp. 1139-42