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Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease Risk: A Matched Case-Control Study within the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study


The association of fatty acids with coronary heart disease (CHD) has been examined, mainly through dietary measurements, and has generated inconsistent results due to measurement error. Large observational studies and randomized controlled trials have shown that plasma phospholipid fatty acids (PL-FA), especially those less likely to be endogenously synthesized, are good biomarkers of dietary fatty acids. Thus, PL-FA profiles may better predict CHD risk with less measurement error. We performed a matched case-control study of 2428 postmenopausal women nested in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Plasma PL-FA were measured using gas chromatography and expressed as molar percentage (moL %). Multivariable conditional logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (95% CIs) for CHD associated with 1 moL % change in PL-FA. Higher plasma PL long-chain saturated fatty acids (SFA) were associated with increased CHD risk, while higher n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) were associated with decreased risk. No significant associations were observed for very-long-chain SFA, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), PUFA n-6 or trans fatty acids (TFA). Substituting 1 moL % PUFA n-6 or TFA with an equivalent proportion of PUFA n-3 were associated with lower CHD risk. Higher plasma PL long-chain SFA and lower PUFA n-3 were associated with increased CHD risk. A change in diet by limiting foods that are associated with plasma PL long-chain SFA and TFA while enhancing foods high in PUFA n-3 may be beneficial in CHD among postmenopausal women.

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