Impact of n-3 fatty acids on endothelial function: results from human interventions studies

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Mar;14(2):121-31. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283439622.


Purpose of review: Dysfunction of the endothelium plays an integral role in atherogenesis. This review summarizes recent findings on the effects of marine [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] and plant [alpha-linolenic acids (ALA)] n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on endothelial function in healthy individuals and in patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors or manifest CVD.

Recent findings: We identified 33 intervention trials investigating the effects of n-3 PUFA on fasting and/or postprandial endothelial function. In healthy individuals regular supplementation of EPA/DHA or ALA shows inconsistent results on endothelial function, whereas markers of endothelial function seem to be improved in overweight dyslipidaemic patients and type 2 diabetics. Conflicting results are observed in CVD patients. Reasons for discrepancies between the study results include the health status and age of participants, duration of supplementation, dose and fatty acid composition of the administered n-3 PUFAs as well as methods used to assess endothelial function.

Summary: In individuals with CVD risk factors including overweight, dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes n-3 PUFAs may improve endothelial function. However, the evidence for a clinical efficacy is not strong enough to make final recommendations with respect to a specific dose and the duration of supplementation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / pharmacology


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