Listed in Issue 43


HU, STAMPFER, WILLETT and colleagues, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA 02115, USA. write that experimental studies in animals and humans suggest that alpha-linolenic acid may reduce the risk of arrhythmia . The authors investigated the association between dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischaemic heart disease (IHD) .



The authors conducted a prospective cohort study. Alpha-linolenic acid intake was derived from a 116-item food-frequency questionnaire completed in 1984 by 76,283 women without previously diagnosed cancer or cardiovascular disease.


During the 10 year period of follow-up, the authors documented 232 cases of fatal IHD and 597 cases of nonfatal myocardial infarction (heart attack). A higher intake of alpha-linolenic acid was associated with a lower relative risk (RR) of fatal IHD, following adjustment for age, coronary risk factors and dietary intake of linoleic acid and other nutrients. The RRs from the lowest to highest quintiles were 1.0, 0.99, 0.90, 0.67 and 0.55. For nonfatal heart attack, there was a modest, nonsignificant trend toward reduced risk when extreme quintiles were compared (RR: 0.85; 0.61, 1.29). Higher intake of oil and vinegar salad dressing, an important source of alpha-linolenic acid, was associated with reduced risk of fatal IHD, when women consuming this food 5-6 times per week were compared with those who rarely did so (RR 0.46, 0.27, 0.76).


This study supports the hypothesis that higher alpha-linolenic acid intake protects against fatal IHD . Higher consumption of food including oil-based salad dressing providing polyunsaturated fats such as alpha-linolenic, may reduce risk of fatal IHD.


Hu FG, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC et al. Dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69(5): 890-7. May 1999.

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