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Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease

von Schacky, Clemens

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: March 2004 - Volume 7 - Issue 2 - p 131-136
Lipid metabolism and therapy

Purpose of review Omega-3 fatty acids are gaining acceptance in the cardiovascular field. The present review describes the most recent studies and developments in the field.

Recent findings Marine ω-3 fatty acids, that is eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, prevent fatal myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death by their antiarrhythmic effects and presumably also by their effect on infarct size, the latter mediated by plaque stabilization, improvements in endothelial function and other mechanisms. In contrast, a cardioprotective effect of α-linolenic acid, a plant-derived ω-3 fatty acid, remains to be clearly demonstrated in adequate intervention trials. Other forms of applications, like parenteral use or other indications, like in the psychiatric field, are currently being actively investigated.

Summary Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, but not α-linolenic acid, prevent sudden death and other cardiovascular catastrophies, and have therefore been recently incorporated into the pertinent guidelines of European and American cardiologic societies.

Medical Clinic and Policlinic Innenstadt, University of Munich, Munich, Germany

Correspondence to Clemens von Schacky, Medizinische Klinik and Poliklinik Innenstadt, University of Munich, Ziemssenstr. 1, D-80336 Munich, Germany Tel: +49 89 5160 2267; fax: +49 89 5160 3374; e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.