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Long Chain n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Allergic and Cardiovascular Disease

[ Vol. 18 , Issue. 16 ]


Lieke van den Elsen, Johan Garssen and Linette Willemsen   Pages 2375 - 2392 ( 18 )


The diet is considered to have a major impact on human health. Dietary lipids including long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) possess potent immunomodulatory activities. Over the last decades the incidence of inflammatory disorders including allergic and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) has been rising. This phenomenon is associated with deficiencies in N-3 LCPUFA, found in fatty fish, and increased content of N-6 LCPUFA in the Western diet. LCPUFA act via different mechanisms including membrane fluidity, raft composition, lipid mediator formation, signaling pathways and transmembrane receptors. N-3 LCPUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can reduce the development of allergic disease by affecting both the innate and adaptive immune system involved in the initiation and persistence of allergic disease. Fish oil has been shown to be effective in the primary prevention of allergic disease in infants at risk when supplemented during pregnancy and lactation. Subtle effects of N-3 LCPUFA on the outcome of the immune response may underlie these protective effects. This review describes the currently reported effects of LCPUFA on dendritic cells, T cells, B cells and mast cells. Also CVD are positively affected by N-3 LCPUFA. Populations consuming high amounts of oily fish are protected against CVD. Moreover N-3 LCPUFA are effective in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events. Amongst other effects, EPA and DHA have been shown to suppress endothelial cell activation hereby reducing adhesion molecule expression and endothelial cell – leukocyte interactions. This review describes the mechanistic basis of the preventive role for N-3 LCPUFA in allergic disease and CVD.


N-3 PUFA, prevention, allergic disease, immune cell, mediator secretion, cardiovascular disease, endothelial cell activation, cell adhesion molecule


Division of Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Universiteitsweg 99, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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