Trans fatty acid intake has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The relation is explained only partially by the adverse effect of these fatty acids on the lipid profile. We examined whether trans fatty acid intake could also affect biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction including C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (sTNFR-2), E-selectin, and soluble cell adhesion molecules (sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1).
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 730 women from the Nurses’ Health Study I cohort, aged 43-69 y, free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes at time of blood draw (1989-1990). Dietary intake was assessed by a validated FFQ in 1986 and 1990. CRP levels were 73% higher among those in the highest quintile of trans fat intake, compared with the lowest quintile. IL-6 levels were 17% higher, sTNFR-2 5%, E-selectin 20%, sICAM-1 10%, and sVCAM-1 levels 10% higher.
Trans fatty acid intake was positively related to plasma concentration of CRP (P = 0.009), sTNFR-2 (P = 0.002), E-selectin (P = 0.003), sICAM-1 (P = 0.007), and sVCAM-1 (P = 0.001) in linear regression models after controlling for age, BMI, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, intake of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
In conclusion, this study suggests that higher intake of trans fatty acids could adversely affect endothelial function, which might partially explain why the positive relation between trans fat and cardiovascular risk is greater than one would predict based solely on its adverse effects on lipids.