Circulating and dietary α-linolenic acid and incidence of congestive heart failure in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):269-74. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.037960. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Background: Few studies have evaluated the association between the n-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA) and the incidence of congestive heart failure (CHF).

Objective: We investigated whether plasma phospholipid concentrations and estimated dietary consumption of ALA are associated with incident CHF.

Design: We used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, a prospective cohort study of cardiovascular diseases among adults aged ≥65 y, from 4 US communities. A total of 2957 participants free of prevalent heart disease and with available fatty acid measurements were included in biomarker analyses (30,722 person-years and 686 incident CHF events). A total of 4432 participants free of prevalent heart disease were included in dietary analyses (52,609 person-years and 1072 events). We investigated the association of ALA with incident CHF by using Cox regression.

Results: After adjustment for age, sex, race, education, smoking status, BMI, waist circumference, and alcohol consumption, plasma phospholipid ALA was not associated with incident CHF (HR for the highest compared with the lowest quartile: 0.97; 95% CI: 0.79, 1.21; P-trend = 0.85). Likewise, dietary ALA was not associated with incident CHF (adjusted HR for the highest compared with the lowest quartile: 0.96; 95% CI: 0.82, 1.20; P-trend = 0.97). We observed no association of biomarker or dietary ALA with nonvalvular CHF subtype. We also found little evidence of an association between ALA and CHF in subgroups based on age, sex, diabetes, fish consumption, BMI, or FADS2 genotype (rs1535).

Conclusion: ALA intake is not associated with incident CHF in older adults. This trial was registered at as NCT00005133.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Diet
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / adverse effects
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases
  • FADS2 protein, human

Associated data