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Fish oil and marine omega-3 fatty acids

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH
Section Editor
Mason W Freeman, MD
Deputy Editor
H Nancy Sokol, MD


Ecologic studies found low rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) death among Greenland Eskimos consuming large amounts of seafood [1]. Subsequent animal studies, observational studies, and clinical trials have examined the health effects of seafood consumption and identified the long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) as the likely active constituents (figure 1) [2-22].

DHA also appears to be essential for early brain development during gestation and infancy. Maternal ingestion of fish during pregnancy and lactation are discussed in detail separately. (See "Fish consumption and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy" and "Maternal nutrition during lactation", section on 'Fish intake'.)

Fish oil consumption may also affect other clinical outcomes. These are discussed separately:

Cognitive decline and dementia (see "Prevention of dementia", section on 'Low cholesterol and low fat diets' and "Treatment of dementia", section on 'Omega-3 fatty acids')

Depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders (see "Pediatric unipolar depression and pharmacotherapy: Choosing a medication", section on 'Omega-3 fatty acids')


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