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Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2014 Oct;12(8):403-15. doi: 10.1089/met.2014.0045. Epub 2014 Jul 21.

Do n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids increase or decrease lipid peroxidation in humans?

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1 Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, Midwestern University , Glendale, Arizona.


Abstract Background: Despite many known health benefits of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), there is a concern that their high degree of unsaturation may actually increase oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation (LPO), and chronic inflammatory diseases.


In this review, we have analyzed results from published human studies regarding the effects of n-3 PUFA supplementation on markers of lipid peroxidation.


Of the 22 published human studies, nine found no change, eight a decrease, and five an increase in markers of LPO. These inconsistencies may be due to methods, subject characteristics, dose, duration, fatty acid and antioxidant composition of supplements, and basal diets. METHODS used for analysis seem to be the most significant factor. Six of eight studies with a decrease in LPO determined F2-isoprostanes produced in vivo, and two determined plasma antioxidant capacity or hydroperoxides. n-3 PUFA can serve as scavengers for free radicals and also modulate expression of genes that determine the balance between oxidative and antioxidative status. Recent studies that monitored oxidation products of cholesterol and fatty acids support the hypothesis that n-3 PUFA decrease LPO. Most of the studies showing no change or increase in LPO determined markers that involved ex vivo sample preparation or oxidation (malondialdehyde, low-density lipoprotein oxidation, lipid hydroperoxides).


A majority of studies do not indicate that n-3 PUFA increased LPO. Future studies need to investigate the effects of dose, duration, and composition of n-3 PUFA with standardized diets and methods on concentrations and types of LPO products produced.

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