Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Role in Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease
Philipp A. Gerber, Ioanna Gouni-Berthold and Kaspar Berneis
Affiliation: Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition, University Hospital Zurich, Ramistrasse 100, CH - 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.
Keywords: Omega-3 fatty acids, metabolism, cardiovascular disease.
The inverse association of cardiovascular risk with intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was suspected early in populations
that are known to have a high consumption of fish and fish oil. Subsequent cohort studies confirmed such associations in other
populations. Further evidence of possible beneficial effects on metabolism and cardiovascular health was provided by many studies that
were able to show specific mechanisms that may underlie these observations. These include improvement of the function of tissues involved
in the alterations occurring during the development of obesity and the metabolic syndrome, as adipose tissue, the liver and skeletal
muscle. Direct action on the cardiovascular system was not only shown regarding vascular function and the formation of atherosclerotic
plaques, but also by providing antiarrhythmic effects on the heart. Data on these effects come from in vitro as well as in vivo studies that
were conducted in animal models of disease, in healthy humans and in humans suffering from cardiovascular disease. To define prophylactic
as well as treatment options in primary and secondary prevention, large clinical trial assessed the effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated
fatty acids on end points as cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, so far these trials provided ambiguous data that do allow
recommendations regarding the use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in higher dosages and beyond the dietary advice of regular
fish intake only in few clinical situations, such as severe hypertriglyceridemia.
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