Comparison of the absorption and effect on platelet function of a single dose of n-3 fatty acids given as fish or fish oil

Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 May;53(5):1165-70. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/53.5.1165.


To compare their relative absorption and effect on platelet function, concentrated fish oil and tuna were given to 10 subjects in a randomized crossover study. Although plasma enrichment of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from either preparation was similar, relative absorption of EPA from tuna was significantly greater than that from fish oil (46.6 +/- 3.0 mg.L-1.g EPA-1 from tuna compared with 16 +/- 1.0 mg.L-1.g EPA-1 from fish oil, P less than 0.001). Relative absorption of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was equivalent (54.0 +/- 9.0 mg.L-1.g DHA-1 from tuna, 56 +/- 9.0 mg.L-1.g DHA-1 from fish oil, NS). Platelet aggregation in response to the endoperoxide analog U46619 was significantly diminished after either preparation but aggregation in response to other agonists, bleeding time, and membrane n-3 (omega-3) fatty acid content were not changed. Thus, n-3 fatty acids are well absorbed after one dose of either tuna or fish oil but EPA absorption appears to be more efficient from tuna. Additionally, a single dose of n-3 fatty acids decreases platelet aggregation by a mechanism not requiring incorporation into platelet membranes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bleeding Time
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fish Oils / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Platelet Aggregation / drug effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Tuna*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Triglycerides
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid