October 25, 2022 – A new study suggests that adding more foods rich in an omega-3 acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) could help people with heart failure.
ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid found mainly in plants. High levels of ALA in the blood were linked to fewer deaths and fewer first trips to the hospital due to heart failure than lower levels in the study. Posted in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s include flax, which can be purchased as seeds or oil and is often found in cereals, baked goods, and other products. Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soy foods, canola oil, seaweed, edamame, and beans are also good sources.
“The most striking result for us is the clear difference between patients in the lowest 25% — the lowest ALA levels — compared to the other 75%,” says Alex Sala Villa, PhD, from the Del Mar Institute for Medical Research. in Barcelona, Spain.
The researchers studied blood samples from 905 heart failure patients. The median age was 67 years, and about a third were women. After a follow-up of about two years, 140 people died of any cause, 85 died of cardiovascular disease, and 141 people were hospitalized for the first time with heart failure.
Patients with higher blood ALA levels were less likely to die or experience heart failure for the first time than those with lower levels, according to the analysis.
Sala Villa says more research is needed to show conclusively whether increasing dietary ALA can improve heart failure outcomes. But for now, “inclusion of certain ALA-rich foods such as walnuts in the diet may translate into cardiovascular benefits for anyone, whether or not they have heart failure. There is no evidence of any adverse effect of just one serving of walnuts per day. Not even over weight.”
Diet is often ‘ignored’
Joan E. Manson, MD, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, called the study results “promising.”
“Diet is often overlooked as an important factor in maintaining good health and good heart health,” she says. “This study provides further support that a nutritional factor may influence heart health, including heart failure. Until recently, most of the dietary focus has been on salt intake, which is very important, but not as much as some of these other dietary factors.”
However, the study does not prove that increased levels of ALA in the blood will definitely improve the prognosis of heart failure, she says.
“Foods that raise the level of ALA in the blood may be the type of plant-based diet that has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, such as the Mediterranean diet. The results may also be the result from other factors that are not adequately controlled. complete in the analysis, or study participants may be more compatible with their medication.”
However, she says, “It is reasonable to recommend that people with a history of heart failure or at high risk increase their intake of ALA-rich foods.”
It’s good advice for everyone, she adds, to eat a heart-healthy diet, including plenty of ALA.
“Eat a large salad or two smaller salads each day, add canola or flaxseed oil, and sprinkle some walnuts,” she advises. “This will give you a high amount of ALA every day.”