Alpha-Linolenic Acid: Is It Essential to Cardiovascular Health?

J.M. Geleijnse, J. de Goede, I.A. Brouwer

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36 Citations (Scopus)


There is a large body of scientific evidence that has been confirmed in randomized controlled trials indicating a cardioprotective effect for omega-3 fatty acids from fish. For alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the omega-3 fatty acid from plants, the relation to cardiovascular health is less clear. We reviewed the recent literature on dietary ALA intake, ALA tissue concentrations, and cardiovascular health in humans. Short-term trials (6–12 weeks) in generally healthy participants mostly showed no or inconsistent effects of ALA intake (1.2–3.6 g/d) on blood lipids, low-density lipoprotein oxidation, lipoprotein(a), and apolipoproteins A-I and B. Studies of ALA in relation to inflammatory markers and glucose metabolism yielded conflicting results. With regard to clinical cardiovascular outcomes, there is observational evidence for a protective effect against nonfatal myocardial infarction. However, no protective associations were observed between ALA status and risk of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and sudden death. Findings from long-term trials of ALA supplementation are awaited to answer the question whether food-based or higher doses of ALA could be important for cardiovascular health in cardiac patients and the general population
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-367
JournalCurrent Atherosclerosis Reports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • coronary-heart-disease
  • n-3 fatty-acid
  • myocardial-infarction
  • fish-oil
  • secondary-prevention
  • national heart
  • reduced risk
  • flaxseed oil
  • double-blind
  • trial


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