Alpha-linolenic acid and coronary heart disease

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2004 Jun;14(3):162-9. doi: 10.1016/s0939-4753(04)80037-1.


Aim: To summarize our present knowledge about vegetable omega-3 fatty acids.

Data synthesis: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is one of the two essential fatty acids in humans. Epidemiological studies and dietary trials strongly suggest that this fatty acid is important in relation with the pathogenesis (and prevention) of coronary heart disease. Like other n-3 fatty acids from marine origin, it may prevent cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. The optimal dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid seems to be about 2 g per day or 0.6 to 1% of total energy intake. Obtaining an optimal ratio of the two essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids--ie a ratio of less than 4 to 1 in the diet--is a major issue. The main sources of alpha-linolenic acid for the European population should be canola oil (and canola-oil based margarine if available), nuts (English walnut), ground linseeds and green leafy vegetables such as purslane.

Conclusions: Epidemiological studies and dietary trials in humans suggest that alpha-linolenic acid is a major cardio-protective nutrient.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Disease / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / metabolism*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Biomarkers
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid