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J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2008;1(1-2):4-23. doi: 10.1159/000109871. Epub 2007 Oct 17.

Omega-3 fatty acids, inflammation and angiogenesis: nutrigenomic effects as an explanation for anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects of fish and fish oils.

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CNR Institutes of Clinical Physiology, Pisa and Lecce, Italy.


Atherosclerosis is a dynamic process with inflammatory aspects playing a considerable pathogenetic role. In this process, the vascular endothelium is the key regulator of vascular function, promoting the maintenance of vascular homeostasis or the progression towards vascular disease. In the past 30 years, the dietary intake of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids - mainly derived from fish - has emerged as an important way to modify cardiovascular risk through beneficial effects on all stages of atherosclerosis. This review specifically focuses on the modulating effects of n-3 fatty acids on molecular events involved in early and late atherogenesis, including effects on endothelial expression of adhesion molecules, as well as pro-inflammatory and pro-angiogenic enzymes. By accumulating in endothelial membrane phospholipids, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease the transcriptional activation of several genes through a decreased activation of the nuclear factor-kappaB system of transcription factors. This occurs secondary to decreased generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species. This series of investigations configures a clear example of nutrigenomics, i.e. how nutrients may affect gene expression, ultimately affecting a wide spectrum of human diseases.

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