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Health Statistics and Geography Lab, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Informatics

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Biological Factors | Cardiovascular Diseases | Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Lipids | Women's Health


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: 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.

METHODS: 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.

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSIONS: 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.


coronary heart disease, plasma phospholipid fatty acids, postmenopausal women

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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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Nutrients. 2019 Jul 21;11(7). pii: nu11071672. doi: 10.3390/nu11071672. Link to article on publisher's site

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.