Long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: new insights into mechanisms relating to inflammation and coronary heart disease

Br J Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;158(2):413-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00189.x. Epub 2009 May 5.


Evidence from observational studies, prospective cohort studies and randomized clinical intervention studies indicate that moderate doses of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFA) significantly decrease risk of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD). Higher doses and longer duration of intervention may also protect from non-fatal CHD events. The exact mechanisms through which LC n-3 PUFA has an effect on CHD are not well established but may include a decrease in fasting and postprandial triacylglycerol levels, a decrease in arrhythmias, modulation of platelet aggregation and decreased synthesis of pro-inflammatory agents. The mechanistic relation between LC n-3 PUFA and inflammation has attracted great interest, and in vitro studies have revealed that these fatty acids decrease endothelial activation, affect eicosanoid metabolism (including epoxygenation pathways) and induce inflammatory resolution. However, the effects of LC n-3 PUFA on established biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial activation in vivo are not strong. Consequently we need new and more sensitive and systemic biomarkers to reveal the effects of LC n-3 PUFA on localized inflammatory processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy*
  • Coronary Disease / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3