The associations between n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and metabolic syndrome (MetS) risk have demonstrated inconsistent results. The present study aimed to investigate whether higher circulating n-3 PUFAs and dietary n-3 PUFAs intake have a protective effect on MetS risk. A systematic literature search in the PubMed, Scopus, and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) databases was conducted up to March 2017. Odd ratios (ORs) from case-control and cross-sectional studies were combined using a random-effects model for the highest versus lowest category. The differences of n-3 PUFAs between healthy subjects and patients with MetS were calculated as weighted mean difference (WMD) by using a random-effects model. Seven case-control and 20 cross-sectional studies were included. A higher plasma/serum n-3 PUFAs was associated with a lower MetS risk (Pooled OR = 0.63, 95% CI: 0.49, 0.81). The plasma/serum n-3 PUFAs in controls was significantly higher than cases (WMD: 0.24; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.43), especially docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). However, no significant association was found between dietary intake of n-3 PUFAs or fish and MetS risk. The present study provides substantial evidence of a higher circulating n-3 PUFAs associated with a lower MetS risk. The circulating n-3 PUFAs can be regarded as biomarkers indicating MetS risk, especially DPA and DHA.
Keywords: docosahexaenoic acid; docosapentaenoic acid; meta-analysis; metabolic syndrome; n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.