Do fish oil omega-3 fatty acids enhance antioxidant capacity and mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation in human atrial myocardium via PPARγ activation?

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2014 Sep 10;21(8):1156-63. doi: 10.1089/ars.2014.5888. Epub 2014 Apr 10.


Abstract Studies in experimental models suggest that n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) improve metabolic and anti-inflammatory/antioxidant capacity of the heart, although the mechanisms are unclear and translational evidence is lacking. In this study, patients ingested a moderately high dose of n-3 PUFAs (3.4 g/day eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and doxosahexaenoic acid (DHA) ethyl-esters) for a period of 2-3 weeks before having elective cardiac surgery. Blood was obtained before treatment and at the time of surgery, and myocardial tissue from the right atrium was also dissected during surgery. Blood EPA levels increased and myocardial tissue EPA and DHA levels were significantly higher in n-3 PUFA-treated patients compared with untreated, standard-of-care control patients. Interestingly, n-3 PUFA patients had greater nuclear transactivation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ), fatty acid metabolic gene expression, and enhanced mitochondrial respiration supported by palmitoyl-carnitine in the atrial myocardium, despite no difference in mitochondrial content. Myocardial tissue from n-3 PUFA patients also displayed greater expression and activity of key antioxidant/anti-inflammatory enzymes. These findings lead to our hypothesis that PPARγ activation is a mechanism by which fish oil n-3 PUFAs enhance mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation and antioxidant capacity in human atrial myocardium, and that this preoperative therapeutic regimen may be optimal for mitigating oxidative/inflammatory stress associated with cardiac surgery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Heart Atria / drug effects
  • Heart Atria / metabolism
  • Heart Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Heart Diseases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Single-Blind Method


  • Antioxidants
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • PPAR gamma