Marine n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Risk of Ischemic Stroke

Stine K Venø*, Christian S Bork, Marianne Uhre Jakobsen, Søren Lundbye-Christensen, Peter L McLennan, Flemming W Bach, Kim Overvad, Erik B Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background and Purpose- We hypothesized that total marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the diet and in adipose tissue (biomarkers of long-term intake and endogenous exposure) were inversely associated with the risk of ischemic stroke and its subtypes. Methods- The Diet, Cancer and Health cohort consisted of 57 053 participants aged 50 to 65 years at enrolment. All participants filled in a food frequency questionnaire and had an adipose tissue biopsy taken at baseline. Information on ischemic stroke during follow-up was obtained from The Danish National Patient Register, and all cases were validated. Cases and a random sample of 3203 subjects from the whole cohort had their fatty acid composition of adipose tissue determined by gas chromatography. Results- During 13.5 years of follow-up 1879 participants developed an ischemic stroke. Adipose tissue content of EPA was inversely associated with total ischemic stroke (hazard ratio [HR], 0.74; 95% CI, 0.62-0.88) when comparing the highest with the lowest quartile. Also, lower rates of large artery atherosclerosis were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA (HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.50-0.95), EPA (HR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.48-0.91) and DHA (HR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.53-0.99), and higher adipose tissue content of EPA (HR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.36-0.76). Higher rates of cardioembolism were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA (HR, 2.50; 95% CI, 1.38-4.53) and DHA (HR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.21-3.69) as well as with higher adipose tissue content of total marine n-3 PUFA (HR, 2.63; 95% CI, 1.33-5.19) and DHA (HR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.04-3.84). The EPA content in adipose tissue was inversely associated with small-vessel occlusion (HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.55-0.88). Conclusions- EPA was associated with lower risks of most types of ischemic stroke, apart from cardioembolism, while inconsistent findings were observed for total marine n-3 PUFA and DHA.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)274-282
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • adipose tissue
  • docosahexaenoic acids
  • eicosapentaenoic acid
  • fatty acids


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