People with genetic predisposition to heart disease may benefit from omega-3 biomarker: Study

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / sonsam
Getty Images / sonsam

Related tags CVD omega-3

Researchers in the UK have found that genetic risk of cardiovascular disease may be due to low levels of a biomarker found in fish oils.

For the first time, new research highlights the role of adiponectin, an obesity-related biomarker, in the association between a genetic variation called omentin and cardiometabolic health. The study was published recently in PLOS ONE.​ 

The research team found that a specific genetic risk in the omentin gene is associated with low adiponectin levels, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The research may also demonstrate why certain lifestyle factors like oily fish consumption and regular exercise are important in deflecting heart disease risk. Professor Vimal Karani, who led the study, told NutraIngredients-USA​ that a good understanding of this genetic risk will help improve adiponectin levels through dietary modification and prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Study details 

The genetic study involved 1,886 Asian Indians who were screened and assessed based on a range of cardiovascular measures including BMI, fasting blood sugar and cholesterol. More than 80% of those who took part were considered cardiometabolically unhealthy.

"We studied Asian Indian populations who have a particular genetic risk of developing heart disease and did see that the majority of our participants were already cardiometabolically unhealthy. However, the omentin genetic variation that we studied is prevalent across diverse ethnic groups and warrants further work to see whether omentin is playing a role in heart disease risk in other groups too,”​ noted Karani, professor of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics at the University of Reading.


Researchers observed that the role of adiponectin was linked to cardiovascular disease markers that were independent of common and central obesity among the Asian Indian population, even after adjusting for factors normally linked with heart disease.

"What we can see clearly from the observations is that there is a three-stage process going on where the omentin gene difference is contributing to the low biomarker adiponectin, which in turn seems to be linked to worse outcomes and risk of heart disease,”​ noted Karani. “The omentin gene itself works to produce a protein in the body that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects, and variations in the omentin gene have been previously linked to cardiometabolic diseases. The findings suggest that people can develop cardiometabolic diseases due to this specific omentin genetic risk, if they have low levels of the biomarker adiponectin."

The adiponectin-omega-3-cardiovascular disease triangle 

“Several randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that a decrease in inflammatory markers and an increase in adiponectin release from fat cells was associated with omega-3 supplementation. One of the plausible mechanisms could be through the PPARG signaling pathway. PPARG (Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma) is a molecule that regulates glucose and lipid metabolism. As natural ligands for PPARG, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to enhance the levels of adiponectin,” ​explained Karani. “Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be effective in stimulating PPARG-dependent release of adiponectin from fat cells. Given that PPARG is a critical regulator of lipid metabolism, omega-3 supplementation is required to enhance the adiponectin levels and prevent dyslipidaemia, an established risk factor of heart disease.”

Still up for debate 

Karani told us that there is a controversy with regards to the use of omega-3 supplementation, where some studies have demonstrated the use of fish oils as a remedy for heart disease, while others have shown omega-3 to increase the risk of heart disease.

“Our study has shown that those who have a genetic risk for low adiponectin, an omega-3 associated biomarker, are at a higher risk for cardiometabolic diseases. Hence, we hypothesize that those with the specific genetic risk in the omentin gene might benefit from omega-3 supplementation; this suggests that omega-3 supplement makers could tie up with the genetic testing centers to offer genotype-based personalized nutrition services. However, genotype-based dietary intervention studies are required to confirm this hypothesis before such therapeutic strategies could be implemented,”​ Karani said. 

With that in mind, the principal investigator of GeNuIne (Gene-Nutrient Interactions) Collaboration is planning more research that will explore the effect of genetic risk and dietary intake on heart diseases in diverse ethnic groups. 

“As a next step, I am planning to replicate this finding in other ethnic groups to see if these results can be generalized to other populations,” ​said Karani. “In addition, I am aiming to examine whether genotype-based dietary interventions could be implemented to prevent heart diseases in multiple ethnic groups." 

Source: PLOS ONE

“Circulating adiponectin mediates the association between omentin gene polymorphism and cardiometabolic health in Asian Indians”

Authors: V. Karani et al. 

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