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BACKGROUND: The role of fatty acids in coronary heart disease (CHD) remains uncertain. There is little evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies on the relevance of circulating fatty acids levels to CHD risk. This study aims to examine the independent associations of the major circulating types of fatty acids with CHD risk. METHODS: UK Biobank is a prospective study of adults aged 40-69 in 2006-2010; in 2012-2013, a subset of the participants were resurveyed. Analyses were restricted to 89,242 participants with baseline plasma fatty acids (measured using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy) and without prior CHD. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for the associations with incidence CHD, defined as the first-ever myocardial infarction, unstable angina pectoris, coronary-related death, or relevant procedure. And the major types of fatty acids were mutually adjusted to examine the independent associations. Hazard ratios were corrected for regression dilution using the correlation of baseline and resurvey fatty acids measures. RESULTS: During a median follow-up of 11.8 years, 3,815 incident cases of CHD occurred. Independently of other fatty acids, CHD risk was positively associated with saturated fatty acids (SFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), inversely associated with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), but there was no strong evidence of an association with omega-6 PUFA: HR per standard deviation higher were 1.14 (95% CI, 1.09-1.20), 1.15 (1.10-1.21), 0.91 (0.87-0.94), and 1.04 (0.99-1.09) respectively. Independently of triglycerides and cholesterol, the inverse association with omega-3 PUFA was not materially changed, but the positive associations with SFA and MUFA attenuated to null after adjusting for triglycerides levels. CONCLUSIONS: This large-scale study has quantitated the independent associations of circulating fatty acids with CHD risk. Omega-3 PUFA was inversely related to CHD risk, independently of other fatty acids and major lipid fractions. By contrast, independently of other fatty acids, the positive associations of circulating SFA and MUFA with CHD risk were mostly attributed to their relationship with triglycerides.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Cardiovasc Disord

Publication Date





Coronary heart disease, Fatty acids, Lipids, Nuclear magnetic resonance, UK Biobank, Adult, Humans, Fatty Acids, Prospective Studies, Biological Specimen Banks, Coronary Disease, Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated, Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Myocardial Infarction, Triglycerides, United Kingdom