Mechanisms underlying the cardioprotective effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Sep;21(9):781-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.12.004. Epub 2010 Apr 10.


Typical omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the form of fish oils and alpha linolenic acid from flaxseed oil. Epidemiological studies suggested the benefits of n-3 PUFA on cardiovascular health. Intervention studies confirmed that the consumption of n-3 PUFA provided benefits for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Evidence from cellular and molecular research studies indicates that the cardioprotective effects of n-3 PUFA result from a synergism between multiple, intricate mechanisms that involve antiinflammation, proresolving lipid mediators, modulation of cardiac ion channels, reduction of triglycerides, influence on membrane microdomains and downstream cell signaling pathways and antithrombotic and antiarrhythmic effects. n-3 PUFAs inhibit inflammatory signaling pathways (nuclear factor-kappa B activity) and down-regulate fatty acid (FA) synthesis gene expression (sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c) and up-regulate gene expression involved in FA oxidation (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha). This review examines the various mechanisms by which n-3 PUFA exert beneficial effects against CVD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fish Oils / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Linseed Oil
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Thrombosis / prevention & control
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Up-Regulation
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / pharmacology


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • NF-kappa B
  • PPAR alpha
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Triglycerides
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Linseed Oil
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid