This study investigated the correlation between the plasma phospholipid (PL) saturated fatty acid (SFA) concentration (as a surrogate marker of SFA intake) and plasma lipid and lipoprotein lipid concentrations in 139 healthy Australian men aged 20–55 years old with widely varying intakes of saturated fat (vegans, n = 18; ovolacto vegetarians, n = 43; moderate meat eaters, n = 60; high meat eaters, n = 18). Both the ovolacto vegetarian and vegan groups demonstrated significant decreases in plasma total cholesterol (TC), low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triacylglycerol concentrations compared with both the high-meat-eater and moderate-meat-eater groups. Total SFA and individual SFA [palmitic acid (16:0), stearic acid (18:0) and arachidic acid (20:0)] in the plasma PL were significantly lower in both the ovolacto vegetarian and vegan groups than in both the high- and moderate-meat-eater groups, while myristic acid (14:0) was significantly lower in the vegans than in the high-meat-eaters. Bivariate analysis of the results showed that the plasma PL stearic acid concentration was strongly positively correlated with plasma TC ( P < 0.0001), LDL-C ( P < 0.0001) and triacylglycerol ( P < 0.0001), with r 2 values of 0.655, 0.518 and 0.43 respectively. In multiple linear regression, after controlling for potential confounding factors (such as exercise, dietary group, age, body mass index, plasma PL myristic acid, palmitic acid and arachidic acid, and dietary total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate and fibre intake), the plasma PL stearic acid concentration was still strongly positively correlated with plasma TC ( P < 0.0001) and LDL-C ( P = 0.006) concentrations. Based on the present data, it would seem appropriate for the population to reduce their dietary total SFA intake rather than to replace other SFA with stearic acid.
In the present study we investigated serum lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] levels, plasma lipids, the serum phospholipid polyunsaturated fatty acid profile and correlates of serum Lp(a) in healthy free-living female vegetarians ( n = 50) and omnivores ( n = 24) to assess differences which may have implications for cardiovascular risk. Dietary saturated fat and total plasma cholesterol were significantly lower in the vegetarians compared with omnivores. The mean serum Lp(a) concentration was lower in the vegetarians (171 mg/l) than in the omnivores (247 mg/l). The serum Lp(a) concentration was significantly negatively correlated with carbohydrate intake (as % of energy), and positively correlated with plasma total cholesterol. Compared with the omnivores, the vegetarians had significantly lower concentrations of 20:3, n -6, 20:4, n -6, 22:5, n -6, 20:5, n -3, 22:6, n -3 and total n -6 and n -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and a lower n -3/ n -6 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio, in serum phospholipids. Lower concentrations of plasma total cholesterol, serum phospholipid total fatty acids, total saturated fatty acids and arachidonic acid, and a tendency towards a lower serum Lp(a) concentration, in vegetarians may have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk. However, the decreased concentration of serum phospholipid n -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may potentially promote thrombotic risk. Based on the present data, it would seem appropriate for omnivores to reduce their dietary intake of total fat and saturated fat in order to decrease their plasma cholesterol, and vegetarians should perhaps increase their dietary intake of n -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and thus improve the balance of n -3/ n -6, in order to reduce any thrombotic tendency that might increase their generally low risk of cardiovascular disease.