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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2006 August;54(4):431-42


language: English

Alpha-linolenic acid and cardiovascular diseases Omega-3 fatty acids beyond eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid

Nannicini F. 1, Sofi F. 2, Avanzi G. 3, Abbate R. 2, Gensini G. F. 2, 4

1 Pratese Institute of Cardiology, Prato, Italy 2 Department of Medical and Surgical Critical Area, Thrombosis Center University of Florence, Florence, Italy 3 Department of Cardiovascular Diseases Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy 4 S. Maria agli Ulivi Center Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, Onlus IRCCS, Impruneta, Florence, Italy


Over the last decades, an increasing body of evidence has been accumulated on the beneficial effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids both in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. However, the vast majority of the studies has been performed on long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and not on their biochemical precursor, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Actually, ALA has some other beneficial effects apart from the known antiarrhythmic effect. In fact, ALA has a strong inhibitory effect on omega-6 metabolic pathway. An adequate daily intake of ALA shifts metabolic pathway to EPA, so favoring the formation of products with a predominant antiaggregating and vasorelaxing action, with respect to eicosanoids with a predominant thrombotic effect. Some important evidences have been raised on the association between ALA and cardiovascular mortality. Indeed, dietary ALA has been associated with a lower rate of fatal and nonfatal coronary events. Hence, major scientific associations published nutritional guidelines including a specific recommendation for ALA.

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