, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 139-145

The role of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease

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Abstract

Plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid has been studied in a limited number of investigations. So far, some epidemiologic and a few mechanistic studies suggest a potential of protection from cardiovascular disease, but this potential remains to be proven in intervention studies. In contrast, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are prevalent in fish and fish oils, have been studied in thousands of investigations. A consistent body of evidence has been elaborated in various types of investigations, ultimately demonstrating reduction in total mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and morbidity by ingestion of roughly I g/d of EPA plus DHA. Current guidelines, however, do not discern between the omega-3 fatty acids mentioned; in fact, most even do not differentiate polyunsaturated fatty acids at all. Unfortunately, this complicates efficient implementation of an effective means of prophylaxis of atherosclerosis.