Novel Approaches for Omega-3 Fatty Acid Therapeutics: Chronic Versus Acute Administration to Protect Heart, Brain, and Spinal Cord

Annu Rev Nutr. 2020 Sep 23:40:161-187. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-082018-124539.


This article reviews novel approaches for omega-3 fatty acid (FA) therapeutics and the linked molecular mechanisms in cardiovascular and central nervous system (CNS) diseases. In vitro and in vivo research studies indicate that omega-3 FAs affect synergic mechanisms that include modulation of cell membrane fluidity, regulation of intracellular signaling pathways, and production of bioactive mediators. We compare how chronic and acute treatments with omega-3 FAs differentially trigger pathways of protection in heart, brain, and spinal cord injuries. We also summarize recent omega-3 FA randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses and discuss possible reasons for controversial results, with suggestions on improving the study design for future clinical trials. Acute treatment with omega-3 FAs offers a novel approach for preserving cardiac and neurological functions, and the combinations of acute treatment with chronic administration of omega-3 FAs might represent an additional therapeutic strategy for ameliorating adverse cardiovascular and CNS outcomes.

Keywords: acute treatment; chronic treatment; myocardial infarction; omega-3 fatty acids; spinal cord and brain injury; stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / drug therapy*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3