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Low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids predicts increased risk for acute coronary syndrome

Evidence suggests that higher intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) decrease the risk of dying from coronary heart disease. However, trans FAs have been linked to higher risk for developing coronary heart disease. This study examined the extent to which blood levels of omega-3 FAs and/or trans FAs are associated with risk for hospital admission for an acute coronary syndrome (ACS, heart attack or unstable angina pectoris).

The researchers analyzed the FA composition of whole blood from 94 patients with ACS and 94 age-, gender-, and race-matched control patients without ACS, after adjusting for smoking status, alcohol use, diabetes, body mass index, blood lipids, and history of heart attack or revascularization (angioplasty or bypass surgery). Whole blood long-chain omega-3 FA (eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, plus docosahexaenoic acid, DHA) content was 29 percent lower in ACS patients than in control patients, whereas trans FA content, although tending to be higher, was not statistically different. Thus, low blood EPA + DHA content was an independent predictor of increased risk for ACS. This difference remained significant after adjusting for other factors, including serum lipid levels, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Low blood levels of EPA + DHA may serve as a new, modifiable risk factor for ACS, conclude the researchers. Several factors were associated with lower omega-3 FA levels: smoking, no college education, male gender, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and high triglyceride levels.

The study was supported in part by AHRQ (HS11282).

See "Blood omega-3 and trans fatty acids in middle-aged acute coronary syndrome patients" by William S. Harris, Ph.D., Kimberly J. Reid, M.S., Scott A. Sands, Ph.D., and John A. Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., in the January 2007 American Journal of Cardiology 99, pp. 154-158.

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