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Adv Food Nutr Res. 2012;65:211-22. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-416003-3.00013-5.

Health benefits of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

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1
Department of Animal Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

Abstract

Marine-based fish and fish oil are the most popular and well-known sources of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These n-3 PUFAs are known to have variety of health benefits against cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) including well-established hypotriglyceridemic and anti-inflammatory effects. Also, various studies indicate promising antihypertensive, anticancer, antioxidant, antidepression, antiaging, and antiarthritis effects. Moreover, recent studies also indicate anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing effects of these fatty acids in metabolic disorders. Classically, n-3 PUFAs mediate some of these effects by antagonizing n-6 PUFA (arachidonic acid)-induced proinflammatory prostaglandin E₂ (PGE₂) formation. Another well-known mechanism by which n-3 PUFAs impart their anti-inflammatory effects is via reduction of nuclear factor-κB activation. This transcription factor is a potent inducer of proinflammatory cytokine production, including interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor-α, both of which are decreased by EPA and DHA. Other evidence also demonstrates that n-3 PUFAs repress lipogenesis and increase resolvins and protectin generation, ultimately leading to reduced inflammation. Finally, beneficial effects of EPA and DHA in insulin resistance include their ability to increase secretion of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory adipokine. In summary, n-3 PUFAs have multiple health benefits mediated at least in part by their anti-inflammatory actions; thus their consumption, especially from dietary sources, should be encouraged.

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