Background: A high intake of linoleic acid (LA), the major dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), has previously been associated with reduced cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality in observational studies. However, recent secondary analyses from clinical trials of LA-rich diet suggest harmful effects of LA on CV health.
Methods: A total of 3706 participants, all born in 1950, were included in this cross-sectional study. We investigated associations between plasma phospholipid levels of LA and CV risk factors in a Norwegian general population, characterized by a relative low LA and high marine n-3 PUFA intake. The main statistical approach was multivariable linear regression.
Results: Plasma phospholipid LA levels ranged from 11.4 to 32.0 wt%, with a median level of 20.8 wt% (interquartile range 16.8-24.8 wt%). High plasma LA levels were associated with lower serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (standardized regression coefficient [Std. β-coeff.] -0.04, p = 0.02), serum triglycerides (Std. β-coeff. -0.10, p < 0.001), fasting plasma glucose (Std. β-coeff. -0.10, p < 0.001), body mass index (Std. β-coeff. -0.13, p < 0.001), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Std. β-coeff. -0.04, p = 0.03 and Std. β-coeff. -0.02, p = 0.02, respectively) and estimated glomerular filtration rate (Std. β-coeff. -0.09, p < 0.001). We found no association between plasma LA levels and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, glycated hemoglobin, carotid intima-media thickness, or C-reactive protein.
Conclusion: High plasma LA levels were favorably associated with several CV risk factors in this study of a Norwegian general population.