CVD Risk Factors: Blood Levels of DHA + EPA

September 21, 2007


Albert, C.M., et al . Blood levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids and the risk of sudden death. New Engl. J. Med. 346: 1113-1118, 2002.
Holub, D. J., and Holub, B. J. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils and cardiovascular disease. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 263:217-225, 2004.
Lemaitre, R.N., et al. n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, fatal ischemic heart disease, and nonfatal myocardial infarction in older adults: the cardiovascular health study. AJCN. 77: 319-325, 2003.
Simon, J. A., et al . Serum fatty acids and the risk of coronary heart disease. Am. J. Epidemiol. 142:469-476, 1995.


Fatty acid analyses of serum (or plasma) phospholipid, a recognized biomarker for EPA and DHA intakes and overall physiological status, have exhibited an inverse correlation between n-3 PUFA and particularly the DHA levels and the development of CHD in men. Fatty acid compositional data on plasma phospholipids from the Cardiovascular Health Study, drawn two years before a cardiac event, exhibited a 70% lower odds ratio for fatal ischemic heart disease in those with higher blood levels of DHA + EPA. The figure below (Figure 1) indicates from the study of Lemaitre et al. (2003) that those with at least 4.6% plasma phospholipid as DHA + EPA had a 70% lower risk of fatal ischemic heart disease; no relationship to non-fatal myocardial infarctions was observed. A strong inverse relation between the summed blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 PUFA (mainly DHA plus EPA) and the risk of sudden cardiac death has been reported in men without prior evidence of cardiovascular disease by Albert et al. (2002). The laboratory assessment of fatty acids in blood serum (plasma) phospholipid and other circulating components are now being utilized in Canada, the U.S., and other countries as part of an overall CVD risk assessment.

Relationship between EPA + DHA and coronary events

Figure 1: Relationship between EPA + DHA and coronary events.

Return to Cardiovascular Health Research