Plasma marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular risk factors: data from the ACE 1950 study

Eur J Nutr. 2020 Jun;59(4):1505-1515. doi: 10.1007/s00394-019-02007-3. Epub 2019 May 23.

Abstract

Purpose: A high intake of marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) might improve cardiovascular (CV) health. We conducted a cross-sectional study to investigate associations between plasma phospholipid levels of marine n-3 PUFAs and CV risk factors, educational level, physical activity and smoking habits.

Methods: A total of 3706 individuals from a general population, all born in 1950 and residing in Akershus County, Norway, were included in this study. The main statistical approach was multivariable adjusted linear regression.

Results: Plasma marine n-3 PUFA levels ranged from 2.7 to 20.3 wt%, with a median level of 7.7 wt% (interquartile range 4.3-11.1 wt%). High levels of plasma marine n-3 PUFAs were associated with lower serum triglycerides [Standardized regression coefficient (Std.β-coeff.) - 0.14, p < 0.001], body mass index (Std. β-coeff. -0.08, p < 0.001), serum creatinine (Std. β-coeff. -0.03, p = 0.05), C-reactive protein levels (Std. β-coeff. - 0.03, p = 0.04), higher levels of serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (Std. β-coeff. 0.08, p < 0.001) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (Std. β-coeff. 0.04, p = 0.003). High levels of plasma marine n-3 PUFAs were also associated with lower glycated hemoglobin (Std. β-coeff. - 0.04, p = 0.01), however, only in individuals without diabetes. We found no associations between plasma marine n-3 PUFA levels and fasting plasma glucose or carotid intima-media thickness. High levels of plasma marine n-3 PUFAs were associated with higher educational level, more physical activity and lower prevalence of smoking.

Conclusion: In this cross-sectional study of Norwegian individuals born in 1950, high levels of plasma marine n-3 PUFAs were favourably associated with several CV risk factors, suggesting that fish consumption might improve CV health.

Keywords: Cardiovascular risk factors; Docosahexaenoic acid; Eicosapentaenoic acid; Fish consumption; Polyunsaturated fatty acids.