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J Intern Med. 2011 Sep;270(3):263-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2011.02384.x. Epub 2011 May 3.

Fatty acid composition in chronic heart failure: low circulating levels of eicosatetraenoic acid and high levels of vaccenic acid are associated with disease severity and mortality.

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Research Institute for Internal Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway.



Free fatty acids (FFAs) are the major energy sources of the heart, and fatty acids (FAs) are active components of biological membranes. Data indicate that levels of FAs and their composition may influence myocardial function and inflammation. The aim of this study was to investigate whether total levels and composition of FAs and FFAs in plasma are altered in clinical heart failure (HF) and whether any alterations in these parameters are correlated with the severity of HF.


Plasma from 183 patients with stable HF was compared with plasma from 44 healthy control subjects.


Our main findings are as follows: (i) patients with HF had decreased levels of several lipid parameters and increased levels of FFAs in plasma, compared with controls, which were significantly correlated with clinical disease severity. (ii) Patients with HF also had a decreased proportion in the plasma of several n-3 polyunsaturated FAs, an increased proportion of several monounsaturated FAs, and a decreased proportion of some readily oxidized long-chain saturated FAs. (iii) These changes in FA composition were significantly associated with functional class, impaired cardiac function (i.e., decreased cardiac index and increased plasma N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide levels) and enhanced systemic inflammation (i.e., increased high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels). (iv) Low levels of C20:4n-3 (eicosatetraenoic acid) and in particular high levels of C18:1n-7 (vaccenic acid) were significantly associated with total mortality in this HF population.


Our data demonstrate that patients with HF are characterized by a certain FA phenotype and may support a link between disturbed FA composition and the progression of HF.

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