Pharmacology and therapeutics of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in chronic inflammatory disease

Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Mar;141(3):272-82. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2013.10.010. Epub 2013 Nov 4.


Omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) have well documented anti-inflammatory properties, and consequently therapeutic potential in chronic inflammatory diseases. Here we discuss the effects of n-3 PUFAs on various inflammatory pathways and how this leads to alterations in the function of inflammatory cells, most importantly endothelial cells and leukocytes. Strong evidence indicates n-3 PUFAs are beneficial as a dietary supplement in certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; however for other conditions such as asthma, the data are less robust. A clearer understanding of the pharmacology of n-3 PUFAs will help to establish targets to modulate chronic inflammatory diseases.

Keywords: AA; ALA; Arachidonic acid; CD; COX; CVD; Crohn's disease; DHA; Docosahexaenoic acid; EC; EPA; Eicosanoid; Eicosapentaenoic acid; FFA; IBD; ICAM-1; IL; Inflammation; LA; LOX; LT; LX; NPD; Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; PBMC; PD; PG; PI; RA; RCT; Resolvin; Rv; SPM; TNF; UC; VCAM-1; alpha-linolenic acid; cardiovascular disease; cyclooxygensae; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; endothelial cells; free fatty acids; inflammatory bowel diseases; intercellular adhesion molecule-1; interleukin; leukotrienes; linoleic acid; lipoxin; lipoxygenase; neuroprotectin; n−3 PUFAs; omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids; peripheral blood mononuclear cell; phosphatidylinositol; prostaglandin; protectin; randomised controlled trial; resolvin; rheumatoid arthritis; specialised pro-resolving mediators; tumour necrosis factor; ulcerative colitis; vascular cell adhesion molecule-1.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3