The cardiovascular protective role of docosahexaenoic acid


McLennan P




Eur J Pharmacol


Dietary fish oils rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can modulate a diverse range of factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. This study examined the relative roles of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 n-3; EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 n-3; DHA) which are the principal n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids regarded as candidates for cardioprotective actions. At low dietary intakes (0.4-1.1% of energy (%en)), docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid inhibited ischaemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias. At intakes of 3.9-10.0%en, docosahexaenoic acid was more effective than eicosapentaenoic acid at retarding hypertension development in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and inhibiting thromboxane-like vasoconstrictor responses in aortas from SHR. In stroke-prone SHR with established hypertension, docosahexaenoic acid (3.9-10.0%en) retarded the development of salt-loading induced proteinuria but eicosapentaenoic acid alone was ineffective. The results demonstrate that purified n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids mimic the cardiovascular actions of fish oils and imply that docosahexaenoic acid may be the principal active component conferring cardiovascular protection.