Inflammatory gene expression in whole blood cells after EPA vs. DHA supplementation: Results from the ComparED study


      • EPA and DHA induce expression of key inflammatory genes in immune cells.
      • Changes in anti-inflammatory gene expression with EPA and DHA are coordinated.
      • CRP reduction with DHA correlates with up-regulation of anti-inflammatory genes.


      Background and aims

      Whether EPA and DHA exert similar anti-inflammatory effects through modulation of gene expression in immune cells remains unclear. The aim of the study was to compare the impact of EPA and DHA supplementation on inflammatory gene expression in subjects at risk for cardiometabolic diseases.


      In this randomized double-blind crossover trial, 154 men and women with abdominal obesity and low-grade inflammation were subjected to three 10-wk supplementation phases: 1) EPA (2.7 g/d); 2) DHA (2.7 g/d); 3) corn oil (3 g/d), separated by a 9-wk washout. Pro- and anti-inflammatory gene expression was assessed in whole blood cells by RT-qPCR after each treatment in a representative sample of 44 participants.


      No significant difference was observed between EPA and DHA in the expression of any of the genes investigated. Compared with control, EPA enhanced TRAF3 and PPARA expression and lowered CD14 expression (p < 0.01) whereas DHA increased expression of PPARA and TNFA and decreased CD14 expression (p < 0.05). Variations in gene expression after EPA and after DHA were strongly correlated for PPARA (r = 0.73, p < 0.0001) and TRAF3 (r = 0.66, p < 0.0001) and less for TNFA (r = 0.46, p < 0.005) and CD14 (r = 0.16, p = 0.30).


      High-dose supplementation with either EPA or DHA has similar effects on the expression of many inflammation-related genes in immune cells of men and women at risk for cardiometabolic diseases. The effects of EPA and of DHA on anti-inflammatory gene expression may be more consistent than their effects on expression of pro-inflammatory genes in whole blood cells.


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