Dietary habits, plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids and selected coronary disease risk factors in Tanzania

  • M Njelekela Department of Physiology, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, P. O. Box 65001, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • K Ikeda
  • J Mtabaji
  • Y Yamori


Objectives: To compare dietary habits and percent compositions of ω (omega)-3 fatty acid (FA) in plasma phospholipids and to examine if there is any association between fish intake and selected coronary disease risk (CHD) factors in this population.

Design: Cross sectional population study.

Setting: Three areas in Tanzania: urban Dar es Salaam (D), rural Handeni (H) and pastoralist population of Maasai in Moduli (Mo).

Subjects: One hundred and five participants (Dar 36, Handeni 37 and Monduli 32) aged 47-57 years.

Main outcome measures: Fatty acids composition in plasma phospholipids.

Results: The frequency of intake of fish, meat, coconut milk and fruits was higher in Dar than in Handeni or Monduli (all p< 0.0001). The Maasai from Monduli had the highest percentage consumption of milk in a week (p<0.0001) and lowest intake of fish (p<0.000l). Participants from Handeni had the highest prevalence of consumption of green vegetables (p<0.0001). Percent compositions of arachidonic acid (AA; C20: 4ω- 6) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; C22: 6ω-3) in plasma phospholipids were the lowest in Monduli (p<0.0001). Selected coronary disease risk factors were higher in the urban area Dar. The frequency of intake of fish per week correlated negatively with total cholesterol (TC) and LDL-C and HBA1c percent but not with blood pressure. The percent composition of ω-3 FA in plasma phospholipids was positively correlated with the frequency of intake of fish a week.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that, there are significant differences in dietary patterns among the three study areas, and that the intake of fish is inversely associated with selected risk factors for coronary heart disease.

East African Medical Journal Vol. 82(11) 2005: 572-578

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eISSN: 0012-835X