Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. Working to lower consumption of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids, and increasing the consumption and proportion of plant oils rich in unsaturated fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats, have been a cornerstone of worldwide dietary guidelines (1,2). Polyunsaturated fats, in particular omega-3 fatty acids, have been a major topic of scientific discovery in revealing their importance to human health.
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common essential polyunsaturated fatty acid available in plant sources (3). ALA is an omega-3 precursor of longer carbon chain fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA, the plant omega-3 fatty acid, is found in notable quantities in chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, canola oil, flaxseeds, and other plant food sources (4). In addition to its role in the production of EPA and DHA, omega-3 ALA provides independent and specific effects on health.
Consumption of dietary ALA has shown to have a significant association to reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and decreased mortality risk from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases (5,6,7).
Higher ALA intake reduces the risk of ischemic heart disease (also called coronary heart disease) events and is significantly associated with a lower risk of CVD and CHD mortality.
Evidence suggests that ALA intake reduces the risk of ventricular arrhythmia by more than 25 %.
ALA supplementation has shown to help reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, and increase HDL cholesterol.
Several investigations have shown the beneficial effects of ALA administered alone or as a component of food in reducing blood pressure.
Epidemiological evidence has shown higher dietary ALA to be associated with lower inflammation, as measured by inflammatory biomarkers.
Higher intakes of ALA have been shown to be associated with lower intima-media thickness (IMT), lower carotid plaque, and to lower coronary artery plaque.