Role of omega-3 fatty acids in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases: a review of the evidence


The present review aims to illustrate current knowledge about the efficacy of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n−3 LC-PUFAs) in treating/preventing several metabolic pathologies. We reviewed systematically the published evidence on the effectiveness of n−3 LC-PUFAs fish consumption or n−3 LC-PUFAs supplementation on prevention/treatment of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases. Most of the reviewed studies were randomized-controlled interventional trials, although some relevant prospective and cross-sectional studies as well as some meta-analysis were also reviewed. Supplementation with n−3 LC-PUFAs might improve some obesity-associated metabolic syndrome features such as insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidemia by decreasing plasma triglycerides. Moreover, the blood pressure-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids and their benefits in vascular function might confer cardioprotection. However, the efficacy of n−3 LC-PUFA on reducing myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, cardiac and sudden death, or stroke is controversial. Due to the beneficial actions of n−3 LC-PUFAs, several worldwide government and health organizations have established some recommendations of n−3 LC-PUFAs intake for groups of population. In general, the recommended levels for diseases prevention are lower than those advised for particular treatments. However, more clinical trials are necessary to recommend the most effective dosages and formulas (type of n−3 LC-PUFA, EPA/DHA ratio) for specific pathologies.

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We gratefully acknowledge partial financial support from the Minister of Science and Innovation of the Government of Spain (AGL2009-10873/ALI), Línea Especial of the University of Navarra “Nutrición, Obesidad y Salud” (LE/97) and the SEAFOODplus project (FOOD-CT-2004-506359).

Conflict of interest

The authors disclose no relevant conflict of interest. Actually, the authors have no financial benefits in the sale of any fish oil or omega-3 containing products. The authors are, however, grateful to the companies (Solutex and Brudy) that have freely and generously provided unrestricted samples of EPA/DHA during the last few years for performing the experimental research of the authors, and declare that the writing of this review was initially promoted by Rovi Laboratories. The views expressed are entirely those of the authors who established the format and content of the review and were entirely free to express whatsoever views they thought appropriate.

Statement of authorship

All authors have made substantial contributions to the writing and/or review of the manuscript. All authors have approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to María J. Moreno-Aliaga.

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Lorente-Cebrián, S., Costa, A.G.V., Navas-Carretero, S. et al. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases: a review of the evidence. J Physiol Biochem 69, 633–651 (2013).

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  • n−3 LC-PUFAs
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Cardiovascular disease