The role of marine omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids in inflammatory processes, atherosclerosis and plaque stability

Philip C Calder
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2012, 56 (7): 1073-80
Atherosclerosis has an important inflammatory component and acute cardiovascular events can be initiated by inflammatory processes occurring in advanced plaques. Fatty acids influence inflammation through a variety of mechanisms; many of these are mediated by, or associated with, the fatty acid composition of cell membranes. Human inflammatory cells are typically rich in the n-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, but the contents of arachidonic acid and of the marine n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be altered through oral administration of EPA and DHA. Eicosanoids produced from arachidonic acid have roles in inflammation. EPA also gives rise to eicosanoids and these are usually biologically weak. EPA and DHA give rise to resolvins which are anti-inflammatory and inflammation resolving. EPA and DHA also affect production of peptide mediators of inflammation (adhesion molecules, cytokines, etc.). Thus, the fatty acid composition of human inflammatory cells influences their function; the contents of arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA appear to be especially important. The anti-inflammatory effects of marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may contribute to their protective actions towards atherosclerosis and plaque rupture.

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