British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Erythrocyte stearidonic acid and other n-3 fatty acids and CHD in the Physicians' Health Study

Chisa Matsumotoa1a2 c1, Nirupa R. Matthana3, Jemma B. Wilka1a2, Alice H. Lichtensteina3, J. Michael Gazianoa1a2a4a5 and Luc Djousséa1a2a4

a1 Division of Aging, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02120, USA

a2 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

a3 JM USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA

a4 Boston Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, Boston, MA, USA

a5 Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA


Intake of marine-based n-3 fatty acids (EPA, docosapentaenoic acid and DHA) is recommended to prevent CHD. Stearidonic acid (SDA), a plant-based n-3 fatty acid, is a precursor of EPA and may be more readily converted to EPA than α-linolenic acid (ALA). While transgenic soyabeans might supply SDA at low cost, it is unclear whether SDA is associated with CHD risk. Furthermore, associations of other n-3 fatty acids with CHD risk remain inconsistent. The present ancillary study examined the association of erythrocyte SDA as well as other n-3 fatty acids with the risk of CHD. In a prospective nested case–control study of the Physicians' Health Study, we randomly selected 1000 pairs of incident CHD with matching controls. Erythrocyte fatty acids were measured using GC. We used conditional logistic regression to estimate relative risks. Mean age was 68·7 (sd 8·7) years. In a multivariable model controlling for matching factors and established CHD risk factors, OR for CHD for each standard deviation increase of log-SDA was 1·03 (95 % CI 0·90, 1·18). Corresponding values for log-ALA and log-marine n-3 fatty acids were 1·04 (95 % CI 0·94, 1·16) and 0·97 (95 % CI 0·88, 1·07), respectively. In conclusion, the present data did not show an association among erythrocyte SDA, ALA or marine n-3 fatty acids and the risk of CHD in male physicians.

(Received April 27 2012)

(Revised August 03 2012)

(Accepted August 06 2012)

(Online publication October 26 2012)

Key Words:

  • Stearidonic acid;
  • n-3 Fatty acids;
  • α-Linolenic acid;
  • CHD


c1 Corresponding author: C. Matsumoto, fax +1 617 525 7739, email


  Abbreviations: ALA, α-linolenic acid; FA, fatty acid; PHS, Physicians' Health Study; SDA, stearidonic acid