Circulating Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Incidence of Congestive Heart Failure in Older Adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study

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The aim of this prospective observational study was to investigate the association, if any, of plasma phospholipid levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with incident congestive heart failure (CHF) in a cohort of 2,735 ambulatory, free-living adults ≥ 65 years of age. Participants in the study were followed from 1992 until 2006.

Phospholipids contain two long-chain fatty acids (one saturated and one unsaturated) and a phosporous molecule in the form of phosphoric acid attached to a three-carbon alcohol (glycerol) backbone. The phosphoric acid is often linked to a nitrogenous base such as choline. The measurement of plasma phospholipid fatty acids is a sensitive biomarker of long-term (4-8 week) levels of circulating fatty acids and as a result is a more accurate indicator of omega-3 fatty acid dietary intake than food-frequency questionnaires. Such an analysis allows for the measurement of specific individual fatty acids and  also accounts for nondietary processes such as the endogenous metabolism of EPA to DPA and DHA.

In this study, the investigators revealed that circulating levels of individual and total long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a significantly lower incidence of CHF. This association was strongest for EPA, with an approximately 50% lower risk for individuals in the highest quartile of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels when compared with the lowest quartile.

Reference List

  1. Mozaffarian D, Lemaitre RN, King IB et al. Circulating long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and incidence of congestive heart failure in older adults: the cardiovascular health study. Ann Intern Med 2011;155:160-170.

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