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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 143109, 24 pages
Review Article

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: The Way Forward in Times of Mixed Evidence

1Division of Medicine, Department of Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Metabolism, Rudolf-Virchow-Hospital, Charité University Medicine, 13353 Berlin, Germany
2Lipid Clinic, Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine and Charité University Medicine, 13353 Berlin, Germany
3Institute of General Pathology, Catholic University School of Medicine, 00168 Rome, Italy
4The Synergistic Innovation Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, State Key Laboratory of Food Science and Technology, and School of Food Science and Technology, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, Jiangsu 214122, China
5Department of Cancer Biology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA
6Department of Physiology, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei 100, Taiwan
7Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Cancer Research Institute, Infection Signaling Network Research Center, Chungnam National University, Daejeon 301-747, Republic of Korea
8Research Center for Biotechnology Applied to Cosmetology, Catholic University School of Medicine, 00168 Rome, Italy

Received 21 January 2015; Revised 18 May 2015; Accepted 28 May 2015

Academic Editor: Sabine Rohrmann

Copyright © 2015 Karsten H. Weylandt et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Almost forty years ago, it was first hypothesized that an increased dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) from fish fat could exert protective effects against several pathologies. Decades of intense preclinical investigation have supported this hypothesis in a variety of model systems. Several clinical cardiovascular studies demonstrated the beneficial health effects of omega-3 PUFA, leading medical institutions worldwide to publish recommendations for their increased intake. However, particularly in recent years, contradictory results have been obtained in human studies focusing on cardiovascular disease and the clinical evidence in other diseases, particularly chronic inflammatory and neoplastic diseases, was never established to a degree that led to clear approval of treatment with omega-3 PUFA. Recent data not in line with the previous findings have sparked a debate on the health efficacy of omega-3 PUFA and the usefulness of increasing their intake for the prevention of a number of pathologies. In this review, we aim to examine the controversies on the possible use of these fatty acids as preventive/curative tools against the development of cardiovascular, metabolic, and inflammatory diseases, as well as several kinds of cancer.