The protective role of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) against cardiovascular diseases has been partly related to their ability to modulate the risk condition known as “endothelial dysfunction”, by reverting the endothelial alterations associated to it (reduced vascular reactivity, the proinflammatory state, and the prothrombotic properties). Moreover, vasculature represents the target for inhibition of pathologic neo-angiogenesis by n-3 PUFAs. This effect is believed to contribute to the beneficial action of these fatty acids against disorders which recognize neovascularization as a crucial pathogenetic step for their development, such as cancer and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Many epidemiological studies have been conducted to evaluate the association between the intake of these fatty acids and the risk of developing cancer or AMD, even though contrasting and not definitive results have been obtained. Conversely, plenty of preclinical and in vitro experimental studies have provided evidence for the anti-angiogenic effects of n-3 PUFAs, mainly studying neo-angiogenesis in general (using normal endothelial cells in vitro) or as a step of cancer growth. The main aim of this review is to critically review the current evidence for the inhibition of the neo-angiogenic process exerted by n-3 PUFAs in cancer and AMD, and to identify possible molecular mechanisms that might contribute to their beneficial effects.
Keywords: n-3 PUFAs, EPA, DHA, angiogenesis, age-related macular degeneration, cancer
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