Background: Prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials have shown the protective
effect of n-3 fatty acids against cardiovascular disease (CVD). The effect of n-3 fatty acids on vascular endothelial
cells indicates their possible role in CVD prevention.
Objective: Here, we describe the effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on
endothelial dysfunction-caused by inflammation and oxidative stress-and their role in the development of CVD.
Methods: We reviewed epidemiological studies done on n-3 fatty acids in CVD. The effect of DHA and EPA on
vascular endothelial cells was examined with regard to changes in various markers, such as arteriosclerosis, inflammation,
and oxidative stress, using cell and animal models.
Results: Epidemiological studies revealed that dietary intake of EPA and DHA was associated with a reduced risk
of various CVDs. EPA and DHA inhibited various events involved in arteriosclerosis development by preventing
oxidative stress and inflammation associated with endothelial cell damage. In particular, EPA and DHA prevented
endothelial cell dysfunction mediated by inflammatory responses and oxidative stress induced by events
related to CVD. DHA and EPA also increased eNOS activity and induced nitric oxide production.
Conclusion: The effects of DHA and EPA on vascular endothelial cell damage and dysfunction may involve the
induction of nitric oxide, in addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. n-3 fatty acids inhibit endothelial
dysfunction and prevent arteriosclerosis. Therefore, the intake of n-3 fatty acids may prevent CVDs, like
myocardial infarction and stroke.