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Association of blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids with coronary calcification and calcium density in Japanese men



Clinical trials of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) among high-risk groups in Japan in which consumption of mairne-omega-3 fatty acids (OM3) is much higher than other countries showed slower progression of coronary atherosclerosis. We aimed to determine the cross-sectional associations of coronary artery calcification (CAC) and calcium density with OM3, EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two principal OM3, in the general population in Japan.


The Shiga Epidemiological Study of Subclinical Atherosclerosis examined a population-based sample of 1074 men aged 40–79 in 2006–08 for computed tomography-measured CAC score (CCS), a well-established biomarker of coronary atherosclerosis, CAC density score (CDS), a potential marker of plaque stabilization, serum levels of OM3, and risk factors.


Prevalence of CCS > 0, ≥ 100, and ≥ 300 was 65.8%, 25.9%, and 12.9%, respectively; the mean (SD) OM3, EPA, and DHA were 10.1% (3.2), 3.2% (1.7), and 5.9% (1.6), respectively. Odds ratios (95% CI, p-value) of CCS 0, 100, and 300 in ordinal logistic regression associated with 1 SD increase of OM3, EPA, and DHA were 0.91 (0.81–1.03, p = 0.12), 0.99 (0.88–1.11, p = 0.87) and 0.84 (0.74–0.94, p = < 0.01), respectively. The inverse association of DHA with CCS remained significant in multivariate-adjusted model: odds ratio of 0.87 (0.77–0.99, p = 0.03). Blood levels of OM3, EPA, or DHA did not have any significant associations with CDS.


DHA but not EPA had a significant inverse association with coronary atherosclerosis in the general population with high levels of OM3. Future trials are warranted comparing the effect of high-dose DHA and EPA on atherosclerosis and cardiovascular outcomes.

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This research project is supported by the following grants: NIH R01 HL068200 and RF1 AG051615; Grants-in-aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan: (A) 13307016, (A) 17209023, (A) 21249043, (A) 23249036, (A) 25253046, (A) 15H02528, (B) 15H04773, (B) 26293140, and (B) 21790579; and a grant from Glaxo-Smith Klein, GB.

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Correspondence to Akira Sekikawa.

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Sekikawa, A., Mahajan, H., Kadowaki, S. et al. Association of blood levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids with coronary calcification and calcium density in Japanese men. Eur J Clin Nutr 73, 783–792 (2019).

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