With regard to inflammatory processes, the main fatty acids of interest are the n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) arachidonic acid, which is the precursor of inflammatory eicosanoids like prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4, and the n-3 PUFAs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in oily fish and fish oils. EPA and DHA inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism to inflammatory eicosanoids. They also give rise to mediators that are less inflammatory than those produced from arachidonic acid or that are anti-inflammatory. In addition to modifying the lipid mediator profile, n-3 PUFAs exert effects on other aspects of inflammation like leukocyte chemotaxis, expression of adhesion molecules and production of inflammatory cytokines. Because of their potential as anti-inflammatory agents they may be of therapeutic use in a variety of acute and chronic inflammatory settings. Evidence of their clinical efficacy is reasonably strong in some settings (e.g. in rheumatoid arthritis) but is weak in others (e.g. in inflammatory bowel diseases and asthma). More, better designed and larger trials are required in inflammatory diseases to assess the therapeutic potential of long chain n-3 PUFAs in these conditions.
Keywords: Fatty acid, inflammation, cytokine, eicosanoid, fish oil
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