Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Summary of the 2016 Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality Evidence Review

Nutrients. 2017 Aug 11;9(8):865. doi: 10.3390/nu9080865.


We summarize the 2016 update of the 2004 Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality's evidence review of omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The overall findings for the effects of marine oil supplements on intermediate CVD outcomes remain largely unchanged. There is high strength of evidence, based on numerous trials, of no significant effects of marine oils on systolic or diastolic blood pressures, but there are small, yet statistically significant increases in high density lipoprotein and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. The clinical significance of these small changes, particularly in combination, is unclear. The strongest effect of marine oils is on triglyceride concentrations. Across studies, this effect was dose-dependent and related to studies' mean baseline triglyceride concentration. In observational studies, there is low strength of evidence that increased marine oil intake lowers ischemic stroke risk. Among randomized controlled trials and observational studies, there is evidence of variable strength of no association with increased marine oil intake and lower CVD event risk. Evidence regarding alpha-linolenic acid intake is sparser. There is moderate strength of evidence of no effect on blood pressure or lipoprotein concentrations and low strength of evidence of no association with coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

Keywords: alpha-linolenic acid; blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; high density lipoprotein; low density lipoprotein cholesterol; marine oil; meta-analysis; omega-3 fatty acids; systematic review; triglyceride.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils