Dietary fat intake and carotid artery wall thickness: The atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study

Grethe S. Tell, Gregory W. Evans, Aaron R. Folsom, Tomoko Shimakawa, Myra A. Carpenter, Gerardo Heiss

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49 Scopus citations


Associations between atherosclerosis and dietary fat and cholesterol have been demonstrated in numerous animal experiments. The relation between these dietary components and atherosclerosis has not previously been reported in a population-based study among human beings. The associations of dietary fat and cholesterol with carotid artery wall thickness (atherosclerosis) were investigated in a population-based study, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, from 1987 to 1989. Participants were 2,095 black women, 5,146 white women, 1,318 black men and 4,589 white men, aged 45-64 years, recruited from four US communities: Jackson, Mississippi; Forsyth County, North Carolina; Washington County, Maryland; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Habitual diet was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire. Wall thickness was measured with B-mode ultrasound. After adjustment for age and energy intake, animal fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, cholesterol, and Keys' score were positively related to wall thickness, while vegetable fat and polyunsaturated fat were inversely related to wall thickness. These associations persisted after further adjustment for smoking and hypertension and were consistent across the four race and sex groups. Thus, elements of habitual dietary intake were consistently associated with carotid artery wall thickness, compatible with their putatively atherogenic and antiatherogenic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-989
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by contracts NO1-HC-55015, NO1-HC-55016, NO1-HC-55018, NO1-HC-55019, HC-55020, NO1-HC-55021, and NO1-HC-55022 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The authors thank the following interviewers and sonographers for their invaluable help with the ARIC Study data collection: Forsyth County, NC—Betty Barnhardt, Jean Marlow, Cathy Tatum, and Wilma Slyman (interviewers), Amy Haire, Bonnie Monger, and Cathy Rachui (sonographers); Jackson, MS—Bobbie Alliston, Brenda Askew, and Brenda Watson (interviewers), Faye Blackburn, Lisa Fields, and Shirley Willis (sonographers); Minneapolis, MN— Marilyn Bowers, Dorothy Buckingham, and Barbara Kuehl (interviewers), Irene Keske, Bryna Lester, Gail Murton, and Margaret Skelton (sonographers); Washington County, MD: Carol Christman, Sunny Harrell, Joel Hill, Trudy Littenberg, and Joan Nelling (interviewers), Dorrie Costa and Beverly Kittle (sonographers). The authors also thank Dr. Walter Willett and Laura Sampson for permission and assistance in using and scoring the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Arteries
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cholesterol
  • Dietary fats
  • Ultrasonography


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