Nutritional mechanisms that influence cardiovascular disease

Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):421S-426S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.2.421S.


Current evidence suggests that most significant risk factors for heart disease have been identified. Although age, sex, and genetics are important unmodifiable risk factors, most new cases of acute myocardial infarctions today can be predicted by the presence and level of 9 risk (or cardioprotective) factors that can easily be assessed and, most importantly, modified. These risk factors are the same in almost every geographic region and in every racial/ethnic group worldwide and are consistent in men and women. Eight of these 9 risk factors are influenced by diet, and most act by promoting atherogenesis, which is the most important background condition for cardiovascular disease. Dietary interventions mostly affect atherogenesis by modulating, at the cellular level, proinflammatory processes that initiate and perpetuate endothelial dysfunction, plaque formation, and, eventually, plaque rupture. For example, there is now enough evidence, both epidemiologic and clinical, of the beneficial effects of n-3 fatty acids. Either as part of a normal low-fat diet or as supplements, these fatty acids are now recommended to prevent cardiovascular disease. This review will summarize the mechanisms by which diet may influence atherogenesis through the early inception, progression, and clinical emergence of atherosclerosis, with a special focus on n-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / blood
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3