Dietary and Pharmacological Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Apr 1;105(4):1030-1045. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz174.


Context: The effects of dietary intake of different fatty acids and pharmacological use of fatty acids, specifically long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFAs), on cardiovascular health and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) prevention have been examined in a large number of observational studies and clinical trials. This review summarizes recent data and discusses potential mechanisms.

Evidence acquisition: The review is based on the authors' knowledge of the field supplemented by a PubMed search using the terms seafood, fish oil, saturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and ASCVD.

Evidence synthesis: We mainly discuss the recent clinical trials that examine the effects of different types of dietary fatty acids and pharmacological use of n-3 PUFA products on ASCVD prevention and the potential mechanisms.

Conclusions: While replacement of dietary saturated fat with unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat in particular, or intake of LC n-3 PUFA-rich seafood has generally shown benefit for ASCVD prevention and is recommended for cardiovascular benefits, data on effects of n-3 PUFA products on ASCVD health are inconsistent. However, recent clinical trials support benefits of prescription EPA in ASCVD prevention. n-3 PUFAs may contribute to ASCVD prevention through multiple mechanisms, including lowering plasma triglyceride levels, anti-inflammatory effects, antithrombotic effects, and effects on endothelial function.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; fish oil; n-3 fatty acids; omega-3 fatty acids; prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis


  • Fatty Acids