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Br J Nutr. 2017 Mar;117(5):669-685. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517000629. Epub 2017 Apr 3.

A comparison of heart rate variability, n-3 PUFA status and lipid mediator profile in age- and BMI-matched middle-aged vegans and omnivores.

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1Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences Division,King's College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine,Franklin-Wilkins Building,150 Stamford Street,London SE1 9NH,UK.
2School of Health Sciences,Division of Pharmacy and Optometry, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health,The University of Manchester,Stopford Building,Oxford Road,Manchester M13 9PT,UK.


Low heart rate variability (HRV) predicts sudden cardiac death. Long-chain (LC) n-3 PUFA (C20-C22) status is positively associated with HRV. This cross-sectional study investigated whether vegans aged 40-70 years (n 23), whose diets are naturally free from EPA (20 : 5n-3) and DHA (22 : 6n-3), have lower HRV compared with omnivores (n 24). Proportions of LC n-3 PUFA in erythrocyte membranes, plasma fatty acids and concentrations of plasma LC n-3 PUFA-derived lipid mediators were significantly lower in vegans. Day-time interbeat intervals (IBI), adjusted for physical activity, age, BMI and sex, were significantly shorter in vegans compared with omnivores (mean difference -67 ms; 95 % CI -130, -3ยท4, P50 % and high-frequency power) were similarly lower in vegans, with no differences during sleep. In conclusion, vegans have higher 24 h SDNN, but lower day-time HRV and shorter day-time IBI relative to comparable omnivores. Vegans may have reduced availability of precursor markers for pro-resolving lipid mediators; it remains to be determined whether there is a direct link with impaired cardiac function in populations with low-n-3 status.


n-3 PUFA; %E percentage of energy; HDHA hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid; HF high-frequency power; HR heart rate; HRV heart rate variability; IBI interbeat intervals; LC long chain; LF low-frequency power; RMSSD root of the mean of the sum of the squares of differences between adjacent normal-to-normal intervals; SDANN standard deviation of the average 5-min normal-to-normal intervals; SDNN standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals; SPM; VLF very-low-frequency power; pNN50 percentage of adjacent normal-to-normal intervals that differ by >50 %; specialised pro-resolving lipid mediators; CHD; Eicosanoids; Heart rate variability; Inflammation; Lipid mediators; Vegans

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