Docosahexaenoic acid regulates vascular endothelial cell function and prevents cardiovascular disease

Lipids Health Dis. 2017 Jun 15;16(1):118. doi: 10.1186/s12944-017-0514-6.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is present in high concentrations in salmon, herring, and trout. Epidemiologic studies have shown that high dietary consumption of these and other oily fish is associated with reduced rates of myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, and other ischemic pathologies. Atherosclerosis is induced by inflammation and can lead to acute cardiovascular events and extensive plaque. DHA inhibits the development of inflammation in endothelial cells, alters the function and regulation of vascular biomarkers, and reduces cardiovascular risk. It also affects vascular relaxation and constriction by controlling nitric oxide and endothelin 1 production in endothelial cells. DHA also contributes to the prevention of arteriosclerosis by regulating the expression of oxidized low density lipoprotein receptor 1, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, thromboxane A2 receptor, and adhesion molecules such as vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 in endothelial cells. Recent research showed that DHA reduces the increase in adhesion factor expression induced by lipopolysaccharide by suppressing toll-like receptor 4. A new mechanism of action of DHA has been described that is mediated through endothelial free fatty acid receptor 4, associated with heme oxygenase 1 induction by Nrf2. However, the efficacy and mechanisms of action of DHA in cardiovascular disease prevention are not yet completely understood. The aim of this paper was to review the effects of DHA on vascular endothelial cells and recent findings on their potential for the prevention of circulatory diseases.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; DHA; Endothelial cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids