Circulating nonesterified fatty acid level as a predictive risk factor for sudden death in the population

Circulation. 2001 Aug 14;104(7):756-61. doi: 10.1161/hc3201.094151.


Background: In ischemic conditions, concentration of circulating nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) is increased and has a proarrhythmic effect that is responsible for ventricular tachyarrhythmias. In nonischemic patients, high NEFA plasma concentration has been shown to be associated with frequent premature ventricular complexes and increased familial risk of cardiovascular disease, but its relation to sudden death has not been studied. We assessed the role of circulating NEFA in sudden death in asymptomatic men in a long-term cohort study.

Methods and results: A total of 5250 men employed by the city of Paris, aged 42 to 53 in 1967 to 1972, free of known ischemic cardiac disease, and included in the Paris Prospective Study I, completed a second annual examination and had fasting plasma circulating NEFA measured. Each subject underwent a physical examination and ECG, provided blood for laboratory tests, and answered questionnaires administered by trained interviewers. Vital status was obtained for each subject from specific inquiries until he retired; after retirement, it was obtained from death certificates. Body mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, tobacco consumption, parental history of sudden death, fasting cholesterol level, and circulating NEFA concentration were independent factors associated with sudden death during follow up (average, 22 years). When adjusted for confounding factors, circulating NEFA concentration remained an independent risk factor for sudden death (relative risk, 1.70; 95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 2.13) but not for fatal myocardial infarction.

Conclusions: Circulating NEFA concentration is an independent risk factor for sudden death in middle-aged men. Some form of primary prevention could be envisaged in subjects at high risk of sudden death.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Demography
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • France / epidemiology
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Time
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol