Omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease in Inuit: First prospective cohort study

Ninna K. Senftleber*, Anders Albrechtsen, Lotte Lauritzen, Christina Lytken Larsen, Peter Bjerregaard, Lars J. Diaz, Pernille F. Rønn, Marit E. Jørgensen

*Corresponding author for this work
6 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: No prospective study have ever assessed if marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protect Inuit against cardiovascular disease as claimed. It is highly relevant as cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence rates are rising concurrent with a westernization of diet. We aimed to assess the association between blood cell membrane phospholipid content of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA + DHA) on CVD risk in Inuit. Methods: We used data from a cohort of adult Greenlanders with follow-up in national registers. The main outcome was fatal and non-fatal CVD incidence among participants without previous CVD. The continuous effect of EPA + DHA was calculated as incidence rate ratios (IRRs) using Poisson regression with age as time scale, adjusting for age, sex, genetic admixture, lifestyle and dietary risk factors. Results: Out of 3095 eligible participants, 2924 were included. During a median follow-up of 9.7 years, 216 had their first CVD event (8.3 events/1000 person years). No association between EPA + DHA and CVD risk was seen, with IRR = 0.99 per percentage point EPA + DHA increase (95% CI: 0.95–1.03, p = 0.59). No association was seen with risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) (IRR = 1.03, 95% CI: 0.97–1.09) and stroke (IRR = 0.98, 95% CI: 0.93–1.03) as separate outcomes or for intake of EPA and DHA. Conclusions: We can exclude that the CVD risk reduction is larger than 21% for individuals at the 75% EPA + DHA percentile compared to the 25% percentile. We need a larger sample size and/or longer follow-up to detect smaller effects and associations with IHD and/or stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Arctic
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Circumpolar
  • Epidemiology
  • Fish
  • Greenland
  • Inuit
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • n-3
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid
  • Stroke


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