Purpose of review: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) have been attributed with several health benefits, including triglyceride lowering and cardiovascular disease risk reduction. This review focuses on new prescription omega-3 fatty acid products in development and recently published data regarding omega-3 fatty acid effects on arrhythmias, heart failure, and platelet inactivation.
Recent findings: A free fatty acid form of n-3 PUFA was found to produce a four-fold higher area under the plasma n-3 PUFA curve than prescription omega-3-acid ethyl esters in patients on a low-fat diet. Eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl esters reduced triglyceride without significantly elevating LDL cholesterol in patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia and in those with mixed dyslipidemia. Recent investigations of n-3 PUFA effects on ventricular and atrial arrhythmias, including studies in patients with implanted defibrillators, failed to demonstrate a significant benefit. However, increased fatty fish or n-3 PUFA consumption was associated with a lower rate of hospitalization in heart failure patients. A further important finding was potentiation of the antiplatelet response when n-3 PUFAs were added to aspirin + clopidogrel.
Summary: Although n-3 PUFA therapy continues to show promise in the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases, further research is necessary to more fully elucidate its role in specific disorders.