n-3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not α-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: A systematic review

Chenchen Wang, William S. Harris, Mei Chung, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Ethan M. Balk, Bruce Kupelnick, Harmon S. Jordan, Joseph Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

779 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies on the relation between dietary n-3 fatty acids (FAs) and cardiovascular disease vary in quality, and the results are inconsistent. A systematic review of the literature on the effects of n-3 FAs (consumed as fish or fish oils rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid or as α-linolenic acid) on cardiovascular disease outcomes and adverse events was conducted. Studies from MEDLINE and other sources that were of ≥1 y in duration and that reported estimates of fish or n-3 FA intakes and cardiovascular disease outcomes were included. Secondary prevention was addressed in 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of fish-oil supplements or of diets high in n-3 FAs and in 1 prospective cohort study. Most trials reported that fish oil significantly reduced allcause mortality, myocardial infarction, cardiac and sudden death, or stroke. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease was reported in 1 RCT, in 25 prospective cohort studies, and in 7 case-control studies. No significant effect on overall deaths was reported in 3 RCTs that evaluated the effects of fish oil in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators. Most cohort studies reported that fish consumption was associated with lower rates of all-cause mortality and adverse cardiac outcomes. The effects on stroke were inconsistent. Evidence suggests that increased consumption of n-3 FAs from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not of α-linolenic acid, reduces the rates of all-cause mortality, cardiac and sudden death, and possibly stroke. The evidence for the benefits of fish oil is stronger in secondary- than in primary-prevention settings. Adverse effects appear to be minor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-17
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume84
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006

Keywords

  • Adverse events
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • Fish oil
  • Linolenic acid
  • Systematic review
  • n-3 fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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