Dietary intake of α-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women

Frank B. Hu, Meir J. Stampfer, Jo Ann E. Manson, Eric B. Rimm, Alicja Wolk, Graham A. Colditz, Charles H. Hennekens, Walter C. Willett

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Background: Experimental studies in laboratory animals and humans suggest that α-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) may reduce the risk of arrhythmia. Objective: The objective was to examine the association between dietary intake of α-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease (IHD). Design: This was a prospective cohort study. The intake of α-linolenic acid was derived from a 116-item food-frequency questionnaire completed in 1984 by 76283 women without previously diagnosed cancer or cardiovascular disease. Results: During 10 y of follow-up, we documented 232 cases of fatal IHD and 597 cases of nonfatal myocardial infarction. After adjustment for age, standard coronary risk factors, and dietary intake of linoleic acid and other nutrients, a higher intake of α-linolenic acid was associated with a lower relative risk (RR) of fatal IHD; the RRs from the lowest to highest quintiles were 1.0, 0.99, 0.90, 0.67, and 0.55 (95% CI: 0.32, 0.94; P for trend = 0.01). For nonfatal myocardial infarction there was only a modest, nonsignificant trend toward a reduced risk when extreme quintiles were compared (RR: 0.85; 95% CI: 0.61, 1.19; P for trend = 0.50). A higher intake of oil and vinegar salad dressing, an important source of α-linolenic acid, was associated with reduced risk of fatal IHD when women who consumed this food ≥5-6 times/wk were compared with those who rarely consumed this food (RR: 0.46; 95% CI: 0.27, 0.76: P for trend = 0.001). Conclusions: This study supports the hypothesis that a higher intake of α-linolenic acid is protective against fatal IHD. Higher consumption of foods such as oil-based salad dressing that provide polyunsaturated fats, including α-linolenic acid, may reduce the risk of fatal IHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-897
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999


  • Diet
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Nurses' Health Study
  • Risk
  • Trans fatty acids
  • Women
  • α-linolenic acid


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