Omega-3 fatty acids and selenium as coronary heart disease risk modifying factors in Asian Indian and Chinese males


Manav M, Su J, Hughes K, Lee HP, Ong CN. Nutrition 2004;20:967-73.


OBJECTIVE: Asian Indian men are reported to have a higher incidence of coronary heart disease than men of other ethnic groups worldwide. Among the many hypotheses, one possible risk factor may be related to their dietary habits. This study estimated the plasma concentrations of fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins, and selenium in Indians and Chinese of Singapore. METHODS: The study population consisted of 145 Indian men and 147 Chinese men ages 26 to 79 y from a cross-sectional survey, the National University of Singapore Heart Study. RESULTS: Our findings indicated that Indians had lower plasma concentrations of docosahexanoic acid (3.07% versus 3.54%, P < 0.001), alpha-linolenic acid (0.48% versus 0.57%, P < 0.001), and total omega-3 fatty acids (4.71% versus 5.27%, P < 0.001) than did the Chinese. Arachidonic acid was higher in Indians (4.83%) than in the Chinese (4.51%, P = 0.007). The ratio of omega-3 acid to omega-6 fatty acid was also lower in Indians (0.15) than in the Chinese (0.16, P = 0.007). There were no significant differences in the concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acids, but saturated fatty acids were higher in Indians (39.17%) than in the Chinese (38.28%, P < 0.001). Analysis of vitamins A, C, and E showed no significant differences between Indians (0.67, 5.72, and 13.04 mg/L, respectively) and Chinese (0.68, 6.48, and 12.71 mg/L, respectively); however, serum concentration of selenium in Indians (117.49 microg/L) was significantly lower than in the Chinese (126.72 microg/L, P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: The results suggest that lower plasma concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and selenium and higher concentrations of arachidonic acid and saturated fatty acids in Indians may reflect lower intakes of marine foods and, as a consequence, higher susceptibility to coronary heart disease.