Large-scale epidemiological studies on Greenlandic, Canadian and Alaskan Eskimos have examined the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids consumed as part of the diet, and found statistically significant relative reduction in cardiovascular risk in people consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Areas covered: This article reviews studies on omega-3 fatty acids during the last 50 years, and identifies issues relevant to future studies on cardiovascular (CV) risk. Expert commentary: Although a meta-analysis of large-scale prospective cohort studies and randomized studies reported that fish and fish oil consumption reduced coronary heart disease-related mortality and sudden cardiac death, omega-3 fatty acids have not yet been shown to be effective in secondary prevention trials on patients with multiple cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. The ongoing long-term CV interventional outcome studies investigate high-dose, prescription-strength omega-3 fatty acids. The results are expected to clarify the potential role of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing CV risk. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids are also important. Future clinical trials should also focus on the role of these anti-inflammatory mediators in human arteriosclerotic diseases as well as inflammatory diseases.
Keywords: Eicosapentaenoic acid; cardiovascular disease; docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3 fatty acid; pro-resolving mediators.