Studies of the biologic and clinical effects of fish oil in human thrombosis and atherosclerosis have increased rapidly in the past 10 years. The components of fish oil that have drawn the most attention are the omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly unsaturated long-chain fatty acids with the first double bond three carbon atoms removed from the methyl end of the molecule. These fatty acids are found in large quantities in sea life, most likely originating in plankton and extending up the food chain to cold-water fishes and, ultimately, to man.
Recently a multitude of new fish oil products have appeared for use not only in laboratory and clinical research, but also on the shelves of health food stores and supermarkets. These products include forms of fish oil that are lower in cholesterol but higher in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as highly purified preparations of the omega-3 fatty acids that have been formulated as ethyl esters or triglycerides. The stimulus for the development of these products has been the yet untested hypothesis that their ingestion as a dietary supplement might prevent or delay atherosclerosis and thrombosis, prolonging life. read
Research on fish oil or the omega-3 fatty acids has focused on the biochemical and cellular effects of these fatty acids and on dietary studies in humans and animals. For example, a series of reports have recently appeared describing the effects of fish oil on athero-genesis and on platelet-vascular interactions. However, controlled prospective clinical trials of the effects of fish oil on humans with atherosclerosis or thrombotic disease have not been reported. This article assesses the effects of fish oil on platelet and vascular function and reviews the animal and human studies reported to date. We provide recommendations for the use of fish oil as a potential therapeutic agent in human atherosclerotic or thrombotic disease.