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Current Research: Cardiology

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The potential for using alpha-linolenic acid as a therapy for cardiovascular disease

Author(s): David P Blackwood, Delfin Rodriguez-Leyva and Grant N. Pierce*

Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of mortality worldwide. It is now clear that myriad modifiable risk factors cause the majority of serious and chronic cardiovascular diseases. Most of these risk factors can be modified through changes in lifestyle and/or with pharmacotherapy. Advances in drug therapy for cardiovascular disease have had a large impact on heart disease over the past six decades. Currently, however, scientific investigations have expanded their focus to study the potential for foods and nutrients that provide the body with health benefits beyond normal nutrition. Many of these ‘functional foods’ or ‘nutraceuticals’ have demonstrated direct benefit for cardiovascular health – for both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Flaxseed is an example of a functional food that has demonstrated significant cardioprotective effects such as lowering the risk of sudden cardiac death or recurrent myocardial infarction. It has demonstrated antiarrhythmic, antihypertensive, antioxidant and lipid-lowering properties. Many of these beneficial effects have been attributed to the rich content of alpha-linolenic acid found in flaxseed. The effects of alpha-linolenic acid on cardiovascular disease, either delivered as a nutraceutical extract or through ingestion of flaxseed in the diet, are discussed in detail.

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