n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular events after myocardial infarction

N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 18;363(21):2015-26. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1003603. Epub 2010 Aug 28.


Background: Results from prospective cohort studies and randomized, controlled trials have provided evidence of a protective effect of n-3 fatty acids against cardiovascular diseases. We examined the effect of the marine n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and of the plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) on the rate of cardiovascular events among patients who have had a myocardial infarction.

Methods: In a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned 4837 patients, 60 through 80 years of age (78% men), who had had a myocardial infarction and were receiving state-of-the-art antihypertensive, antithrombotic, and lipid-modifying therapy to receive for 40 months one of four trial margarines: a margarine supplemented with a combination of EPA and DHA (with a targeted additional daily intake of 400 mg of EPA-DHA), a margarine supplemented with ALA (with a targeted additional daily intake of 2 g of ALA), a margarine supplemented with EPA-DHA and ALA, or a placebo margarine. The primary end point was the rate of major cardiovascular events, which comprised fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events and cardiac interventions. Data were analyzed according to the intention-to-treat principle, with the use of Cox proportional-hazards models.

Results: The patients consumed, on average, 18.8 g of margarine per day, which resulted in additional intakes of 226 mg of EPA combined with 150 mg of DHA, 1.9 g of ALA, or both, in the active-treatment groups. During the follow-up period, a major cardiovascular event occurred in 671 patients (13.9%). Neither EPA-DHA nor ALA reduced this primary end point (hazard ratio with EPA-DHA, 1.01; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87 to 1.17; P=0.93; hazard ratio with ALA, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.78 to 1.05; P=0.20). In the prespecified subgroup of women, ALA, as compared with placebo and EPA-DHA alone, was associated with a reduction in the rate of major cardiovascular events that approached significance (hazard ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.51 to 1.03; P=0.07). The rate of adverse events did not differ significantly among the study groups.

Conclusions: Low-dose supplementation with EPA-DHA or ALA did not significantly reduce the rate of major cardiovascular events among patients who had had a myocardial infarction and who were receiving state-of-the-art antihypertensive, antithrombotic, and lipid-modifying therapy. (Funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00127452.).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / adverse effects
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / adverse effects
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Margarine / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / drug therapy*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / adverse effects
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Margarine
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00127452