Therapeutic Potential of ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Human Autoimmune Diseases

Front Immunol. 2019 Sep 27:10:2241. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02241. eCollection 2019.


The recognition of ω-3 polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs) as essential fatty acids to normal growth and health was realized more than 80 years ago. However, the awareness of the long-term nutritional intake of ω-3 PUFAs in lowering the risk of a variety of chronic human diseases has grown exponentially only since the 1980s (1, 2). Despite the overwhelming epidemiological evidence, many attempts of using fish-oil supplementation to intervene human diseases have generated conflicting and often ambiguous outcomes; null or weak supporting conclusions were sometimes derived in the subsequent META analysis. Different dosages, as well as the sources of fish-oil, may have contributed to the conflicting outcomes of intervention carried out at different clinics. However, over the past decade, mounting evidence generated from genetic mouse models and clinical studies has shed new light on the functions and the underlying mechanisms of ω-3 PUFAs and their metabolites in the prevention and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. In this review, we have summarized the current understanding of the effects as well as the underlying mechanisms of ω-3 PUFAs on autoimmune diseases.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; eicosanoids; inflammation; mTOR-the mammalian target of rapamycin; ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated