The association of dietary alpha-linolenic acid with blood pressure and subclinical atherosclerosis in people born small for gestational age: the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project study

J Pediatr. 2015 May;166(5):1252-1257.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.01.020. Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Objective: To determine whether dietary alpha-linolenic (omega-3) fatty acid intake is associated with lower blood pressure and aortic intima-media thickness (IMT) in people born small for gestational age (SGA).

Study design: Participants were recruited at age 6 months and followed up every 6-12 months until age 19 years. Blood pressure and food records were assessed at each visit. A total of 1009 participants had at least one blood pressure measure and complete birth weight and gestational age data, including 115 (11%) born SGA (birth weight≤10th percentile). Aortic IMT was assessed by ultrasound at 19 years (n=413). Analysis was by linear mixed models and multivariable linear regression.

Results: Children born SGA had greater systolic and pulse pressure from age 14 years onwards. In those born SGA, systolic blood pressure was 2.1 mm Hg lower ([95% CI 0.8-3.3]; P=.001) and pulse pressure 1.4 mm Hg lower ([95% CI 0.3-2.4]; P=.01), per exponential increase in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) intake; weakened by adjustment for anthropometric measures. Long-term ALA intake was inversely associated with aortic IMT at 19 years in those born SGA (-0.30 mm [95% CI -0.52, -0.08] per exponential greater ALA intake; P=.008), independent of other dietary and anthropometric factors.

Conclusion: Long-term dietary ALA intake during childhood is associated with improved vascular health in people born SGA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aorta / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis / blood*
  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage*


  • alpha-Linolenic Acid