Intake of trans fatty acids is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Whether different classes of trans fatty acids show similar associations is unclear. We previously reported an association of sudden cardiac death with red cell membrane trans-18:2 but not trans-18:1 fatty acids. To extend these findings, we investigated the associations of plasma phospholipid trans fatty acids with fatal ischemic heart disease (IHD) and sudden cardiac death.
We conducted a case-control study nested in the Cardiovascular Health Study. We identified 214 cases of fatal IHD (fatal myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease death) between 1992 and 1998. We randomly selected 214 controls, matched to cases on demographics, prevalent cardiovascular disease, and timing of blood draw. Plasma phospholipid fatty acids were assessed in blood samples collected earlier. Higher levels of plasma phospholipid trans-18:2 fatty acids were associated with higher risk of fatal IHD (odds ratio [OR] for interquintile range 1.68, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.21 to 2.33) after adjustment for risk factors and trans-18:1 levels. Trans-18:1 levels above the 20th percentile were associated with lower risk (OR 0.34, 95% CI 0.18 to 0.63). In analyses limited to cases of sudden cardiac death (n=95), higher levels of trans-18:2 fatty acids were associated with higher risk (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.27 to 4.31) and higher trans-18:1 with lower risk (OR 0.18, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.54).
Higher levels of trans-18:2 and lower levels of trans-18:1 fatty acids are associated with higher risks of fatal IHD and sudden cardiac death. If confirmed, these findings suggest that current efforts at decreasing trans fatty acid intake in foods should take into consideration the trans-18:2 content.