BACKGROUND - alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease; however, the underlying mechanism is not completely known.
OBJECTIVE - The objective was to examine whether habitual dietary ALA intake is associated with plasma concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers after control for shared genetic and common environmental factors.
DESIGN - We cross-sectionally studied 353 middle-aged male twins. Habitual diet was assessed with the Willett food-frequency questionnaire. Fasting plasma concentrations of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its soluble receptor (sIL-6R), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) were measured. Linear mixed-effect regression analysis was used to partition the overall association into within- and between-pair associations.
RESULTS - A 1-g increment in habitual dietary ALA intake was associated with 11.0% lower concentrations of sIL-6R (P = 0.004) but not of IL-6 (P = 0.31), TNF-alpha (P = 0.16), or hsCRP (P = 0.36) after adjustment for energy intake, nutritional factors, known cardiovascular disease risk factors, and medications. After further control for shared genetic and common environmental factors by comparison of brothers within a twin pair, a twin with a 1-g higher ALA intake was likely to have 10.9% (95% CI: 3.7%, 17.6%; P = 0.004) lower sIL-6R concentrations than his co-twin with a low intake, whereas ALA intake was not significantly associated with plasma concentrations of IL-6, TNF-alpha, or hsCRP. These results were validated by using 1000 bootstrap samples.
CONCLUSIONS - Habitual dietary ALA intake is inversely associated with plasma sIL-6R concentrations independent of shared genetic and common environmental influences. Lowering sIL-6R may be a mechanism underlying the cardioprotective properties of habitual dietary ALA. This study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00017836.