Higher levels of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in red blood cell membranes are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Whether membrane levels of alpha-linolenic acid, a medium-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, show a similar association is unclear. We investigated the association of red blood cell membrane alpha-linolenic acid with sudden attended by paramedics in Seattle, WA (n = 265). Controls, matched to cases by age, sex, and calendar year, were randomly indentified from the community (n = 415). All participants were free of prior clinically diagnosed heart disease. Blood was obtained at the time of cardiac arrest (cases) or at the time of an interview (controls). Higher membrane alpha-linolenic acid was associated with a higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest; after adjustment for matching factors and smoking, diabetes, hypertension, education, physical activity, weight, height, and totla fat intake, the odds ratios corresponding to increasing quartiles of alpha-linolenic acid were 1.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-3.0), 1.9 (95% CI, 1.1-3.3), and 2.5 (95% CI, 1.3-4.8) compared with the lowest quartile. The association was independent of red blood cell levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, and linoleic acid. Higher membrane levels of alpha-linolenic acid are associated with higher risk of sudden cardiac arrest. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.