Variability in the Clinical Effects of the Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids DHA and EPA in Cardiovascular Disease-Possible Causes and Future Considerations

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Nutrients. 2023 Nov 18;15(22):4830. doi: 10.3390/nu15224830.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) that includes myocardial infarction and stroke, is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Atherosclerosis, the primary underlying cause of CVD, can be controlled by pharmacological and dietary interventions, including n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation. n-3 PUFA supplementation, primarily consisting of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has shown promise in reducing atherosclerosis by modulating risk factors, including triglyceride levels and vascular inflammation. n-3 PUFAs act by replacing pro-inflammatory fatty acid types in cell membranes and plasma lipids, by regulating transcription factor activity, and by inducing epigenetic changes. EPA and DHA regulate cellular function through shared and differential molecular mechanisms. Large clinical studies on n-3 PUFAs have reported conflicting findings, causing confusion among the public and health professionals. In this review, we discuss important factors leading to these inconsistencies, in the context of atherosclerosis, including clinical study design and the differential effects of EPA and DHA on cell function. We propose steps to improve clinical and basic experimental study design in order to improve supplement composition optimization. Finally, we propose that understanding the factors underlying the poor response to n-3 PUFAs, and the development of molecular biomarkers for predicting response may help towards a more personalized treatment.

PMID:38004225 | PMC:PMC10675410 | DOI:10.3390/nu15224830

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