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Inverse shift in serum polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids is associated with adverse dilatation of the heart
  1. H Rupp,
  2. T P Rupp,
  3. P Alter,
  4. B Maisch
  1. Philipps University of Marburg, Department of Internal Medicine-Cardiology, Experimental Cardiology Laboratory
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dr Heinz Rupp, Philipps University, Department of Internal Medicine-Cardiology, Experimental Cardiology Laboratory, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse 1, D-35032 Marburg, Germany; rupp{at}


Background Cardiac dilatation is associated with impaired pump function, progression of heart failure and electrical instability. Risk of sudden death is associated with a low blood level of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Objective The hypothesis was, therefore, addressed that left ventricular dilatation as assessed by echocardiography is associated with a reduced serum polyunsaturated fatty acid level.

Methods Fatty acids were determined with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry in serum of 308 patients with dilative heart failure unrelated to myocardial infarction (age 48 (SD12) years, NYHA class 2.2 (0.6), ejection fraction 31% (10%)).

Results The extent of left ventricular dilatation as assessed by left ventricular end-diastolic diameter was associated with a reduction of both n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (1.0% (0.5%) vs 1.3% (0.6%), p<0.001) and the n-6 arachidonic acid (4.6% (1.8%) vs 5.2% (1.9%), p<0.01) were reduced in patients with left ventricular dilatation (end-diastolic diameter, 68–90 mm, upper tertile vs 48–61 mm, lower tertile). By contrast, monounsaturated fatty acids were increased (the n-9 oleic acid 26.1% (4.8%) vs 23.9% (4.8%), p<0.01). A low docosahexaenoic acid (0.01–0.9%, lower tertile vs 1.4–3.1%, upper tertile) was associated with greater left ventricular dilatation (end-diastolic diameter, 67 (8) vs 63 (7) mm, p<0.001). The cut-off for the absence of severe dilatation (end-diastolic diameter >70 mm) was set at >1.24% docosahexaenoic acid. In our sample, the negative-predictive value for severe dilatation was 91% and sensitivity was 84%.

Conclusions Docosahexaenoic acid provides a new sensitive biomarker for monitoring and detecting severe left ventricular dilatation in heart failure patients.

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  • Funding The study was supported by the Marburg Cardiac Society.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.