Heart DiseaseOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Protection from heart attack with alpha-linolenic acid

Among omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are most readily used by the body.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston show an association between raising the intake of ALA and lowering heart attacks.

First, the details.

  • 1819 people with a first nonfatal acute myocardial infarction were compared to a matched group of people without a heart attack.
  • The odds of having a nonfatal myocardial infarction were calculated for the highest intake of ALA to the lowest intake.

And, the results.

  • Greater alpha-linolenic acid (assessed in adipose concentrations or by questionnaire) was associated with lower risk of having a heart attack.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Consumption of vegetable oils rich in alpha-linolenic acid could confer important cardiovascular protection. The apparent protective effect of alpha-linolenic acid is most evident among subjects with low intakes.”

Dr. William Harris from the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls in impressed. In an accompanying editorial quoted on Medscape, he said, “If ALA were able to do the same ‘heavy lifting’ that EPA and DHA do, this would be welcomed news, because the capacity to produce ALA is essentially limitless, whereas there are only so many fish in the sea.”

8/16/08 21:06 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.