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Atherosclerosis. 2012 Jun;222(2):545-50. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.03.029. Epub 2012 Apr 7.

Dietary fatty acids and peripheral artery disease in adults.

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Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a debilitating condition involving atherosclerosis. Although saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids have strong associations with atherosclerosis, it is unclear if diets high in these fatty acids affect PAD.


We studied 6352 adults aged 40 years and older who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2004. Ankle brachial index (ABI) was assessed by standardized blood pressure measurements, and we defined PAD as an ABI<0.9. Fatty acid intake was assessed by validated 24-h dietary recall. We used multivariable linear and logistic regression to estimate associations between intakes of dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs), monounsaturated fatty acids (MFAs), marine omega-3 fatty acids (N-3), linolenic acid (LNA), and omega-6 fatty acids (N-6) and ABI/PAD.


The prevalence and 95% confidence interval (CI) of PAD was 5.2% (95% CI 4.6-5.8). There were no associations between ABI and intakes of marine N-3 (p=0.83) or N-6 (p=0.19) in adjusted models. In contrast, LNA was associated with higher ABI (p=0.04) and SFA tended to be associated with lower ABI (p=0.06) in adjusted models. In addition, higher SFA was associated with a higher prevalence of PAD: adjusted odds ratio 1.30 (95% CI 1.01-1.67; p=0.04) and a trend toward slower gait speed (p=0.08).


In this nationally representative sample, higher dietary intakes of LNA and SFAs were associated with higher and lower ABI, respectively. Prospective studies are needed to confirm the potential protective effects of dietary LNA and detrimental effects of dietary SFAs on PAD.

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