Omega-3 fatty acids: benefits for cardio-cerebro-vascular diseases

Atherosclerosis. 2012 Dec;225(2):291-5. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.09.006. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Background and purpose: Intracranial artery stenosis (ICAS) is a narrowing of an intracranial artery, which is a common etiology for ischemic stroke. In this commentary, we review key aspects of the discrimination between non-stroke controls and ischemic stroke patients on the background of phospholipid ω3-fatty acid (DHA, EPA) composition. The discussion is embedded in the presentation of general effects of long-chain ω3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in cardio-cerebro-vascular diseases (CCVDs) and Alzheimer dementia (AD).

Summary of commentary: ICAS is a common stroke subtype and has emerged as a major factor in recurrent stroke and vascular mortality. DHA and EPA are important fatty acids to distinguish between NCAS (no cerebral arteriosclerotic stenosis) and ICAS in stroke. The risk of ICAS is inversely correlated with the DHA content in phospholipids. Furthermore, a mechanistic explanation has been proposed for the beneficial effects of PUFAs in CCVDs and AD.

Conclusions: Whereas the beneficial effects of EPA/DHA for cardiovascular diseases and stroke seem to be beyond question, preventive effects in patients with very mild cognitive dysfunction and beginning Alzheimer's disease undoubtedly need confirmation by larger clinical trials. A collaborative international basic science approach is warranted considering cautiously designed studies in order to avoid ethical problems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Constriction, Pathologic
  • Dementia, Vascular / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Arterial Diseases / prevention & control
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Stroke / prevention & control


  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3