Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral arterial disease, contributes to the global disease burden greatly.

GlobalData (a leading data and analytics company) epidemiologists have estimated that by the end of 2023, there will be just over 5.15 million incident cases of acute ischemic stroke in men and women over the age of 18 years in the 16 major pharmaceutical markets (16MMs: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea), and that number is expected to increase to 5.72 million by the end of 2027.

Some CVD risk factors are non-modifiable such as a family history of the condition; this calls for more attention and effort to be placed on reducing modifiable CVD risk factors such as dietary intake of certain food groups.

To maximise the nutritional benefits of consuming a diet with healthy fats incorporated into it, the consumer needs to also pay attention to the type and quality of fat.

A high intake of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are mainly derived from oily fish, vegetable oils, and nuts, has been recommended in the primary prevention of CVD.

However, knowledge to support whether specific dietary advice is needed in relation to the level of PUFA and individuals with a family history of CVD is limited; thus, Laguzzi and colleagues conducted a study, published in December 2023 in the Journal of the American Heart Association to examine whether low PUFA intake more negatively impacts individuals with a family history of CVD than those without.

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By GlobalData

The report was a pooled analysis of 15 epidemiological studies, which in total covered information on biomarkers of PUFA intake, data on family history of CVD, and CVD diagnoses and causes of death for 40,885 individuals.

CVD was defined as either a fatal or non-fatal case of coronary heart disease or ischemic stroke, and a family history of CVD was defined as a first-degree relative affected by CVD.

The participating studies created three binary variables to reflect low PUFA intake: one was assigned to low linoleic acid, two was assigned to low alpha-linolenic acid, and three was assigned to low eicosapentaenoic/docosahexaenoic acid (EPA/DHA).

When the analysis was run, the results showed that the group that had single exposure to low EPA/DHA in the absence of a family history of CVD was 1.06 times more likely to develop CVD compared to the group with no exposure to EPA/DHA and without a family history of CVD.

The risk of an individual developing CVD even without exposure to EPA/DHA was higher than the reference group if it had a single exposure to a family history of CVD, 1.25 times more likely to be precise.

An individual with double exposure to low EPA/DHA in combination with a family history of CVD was 1.41 times more likely to develop CVD.

From the study, it can be concluded that low intake of PUFA has a negative impact on individuals without a family history of CVD; that negative impact is potentially further enhanced when there is a genetic predisposition for CVD in the individual through having a first-degree relative with CVD.

The study results support the current CVD guidelines on engaging in a diet of oily fish and nuts to reduce CVD risk.