Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain: metabolism and neuroprotection

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jun 1;16:2653-70. doi: 10.2741/3878.


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are a group of essential fatty acids that serve as energy substrates and integral membrane components, and therefore play crucial roles in the maintenance of normal neurological function. Recent studies show that n-3 PUFAs display neuroprotective properties and exert beneficial effects on the cognitive function with aging. The brain's need of n-3 PUFAs is predominantly met by the blood delivery due to their limited synthesis in the brain. The present review focuses on the metabolism of n-3 PUFAs in the brain, including their accumulation and turnover. We also highlight the current understanding of the neuroprotective effects of n-3 PUFAs against cerebral ischemia and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diet therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Ischemia / diet therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Parkinson Disease / diet therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Neuroprotective Agents