Background: Previous studies did not draw a consistent conclusion about the effects of marine-derived n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on fasting blood level of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α).
Methods and findings: A comprehensive search of Web of Science, PubMed, Embase and Medline (from 1950 to 2013) and bibliographies of relevant articles was undertaken. Sixty-eight RCTs with a total of 4601 subjects were included in the meta-analysis. Marine-derived n-3 PUFAs supplementation showed a lowering effect on Marine-derived n-3 PUFAs supplementation had a significant lowering effect on TNF-α, IL-6 and CRP in three groups of subjects (subjects with chronic non-autoimmune disease, subjects with chronic autoimmune disease and healthy subjects). A significant negative linear relationship between duration and effect size of marine-derived n-3 PUFAs supplementation on fasting blood levels of TNF-α and IL-6 in subjects with chronic non-autoimmune disease was observed, indicating that longer duration of supplementation could lead to a greater lowering effect. A similar linear relationship was also observed for IL-6 levels in healthy subjects. Restricted cubic spline analysis and subgroup analysis showed that the lowering effect of marine-derived n-3 PUFAs on CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α in subjects with chronic non-autoimmune disease became weakened when body mass index was greater than 30 kg/m². The effect of marine-derived n-3 PUFAs from dietary intake was only assessed in subjects with chronic non-autoimmune disease, and a significant lowering effect was observed on IL-6, but not on CRP and TNF-α.
Conclusions: Marine-derived n-3 PUFAs supplementation had a significant lowering effect on CRP, IL-6 and TNF-α level. The lowering effect was most effective in non-obese subjects and consecutive long-term supplementation was recommended.