Biological effects of fish oils in relation to chronic diseases
- Cite this article as:
- Carroll, K.K. Lipids (1986) 21: 731. doi:10.1007/BF02535402
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The low incidence of cardiovascular disease in Greenland Eskimos appears to be due to their high intake of seal, whale and fish. The lipids of these marine animals lower serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels and help to prevent blood clotting. The latter effect has been related to a change in the balance of prostacyclin and thromboxane as a result of replacing n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the body by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in marine lipids. Dietary fish oils have also been shown to inhibit development of mammary, pancreatic, intestinal and prostatic tumors in experimental animals. This effect may likewise be due to changes in the production of prostaglandins or related compounds. The involvement of prostaglandins and leukotrienes in immune responses has led to studies on the effects of fish oil on various chronic diseases associated with abnormalities of the immune system. Some of these diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, are also relatively uncommon in Eskimos. Preliminary results of these studies are encouraging, but more work is required to assess the usefulness of dietary fish oils in treatment of these diseases. In addition to their apparent therapeutic value, n-3 fatty acids are considered essential dietary components since they cannot be synthesized in the body and appear necessary for normal vision and probably other body functions.