British Journal of Nutrition

Review Article

Do long-chain n-3 fatty acids reduce arterial stiffness? A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Matthew P. Pasea1a2 c1, Natalie A. Grimaa3 and Jerome Sarrisa1a2a4

a1 NICM Centre for Study of Natural Medicines and Neurocognition, Melbourne, Australia

a2 Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Center, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn 3122, Melbourne, Australia

a3 Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

a4 Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia


Fish oils, rich in long-chain n-3 PUFA, are known to reduce various risk factors for CVD. However, conclusive evidence regarding the benefits of n-3 on arterial stiffness, a risk factor for CVD, has not yet been established. Consequently, we conducted the first study aimed to quantify the effects of n-3 supplementation on arterial stiffness through meta-analysis. Multiple databases and clinical trial registries were systematically searched up until September 2010 for randomised and controlled adult human clinical trials to investigate the effects of long-chain n-3 fatty acids on arterial stiffness. No limits were set on dosage sizes or sample characteristics. A total of ten n-3 trials met the final inclusion criteria; four using pulse wave velocity (PWV) and six using arterial compliance, measured as capacitive compliance or systemic arterial compliance, as respective outcome measures. Meta-analysis revealed that n-3 was statistically significant in effectively improving both PWV (g = 0·33; 95 % CI 0·12, 0·56; P < 0·01) and arterial compliance (g = 0·48; 95 % CI 0·24, 0·72; P < 0·001). There was no evidence of heterogeneity or publication bias. Results were not influenced by changes in blood pressure, heart rate or BMI. The findings of the present study reveal that supplementation with n-3 offers a scientifically supported means of reducing arterial stiffness. Reduction in arterial stiffness by n-3 may account for some of its purported cardioprotective effects.

(Received February 02 2011)

(Revised April 14 2011)

(Accepted April 14 2011)

(Online publication July 06 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: M. P. Pase, fax +613 9214 5525, email


Abbreviations: BP, blood pressure; C1, capacitive arterial compliance; PWV, pulse wave velocity; SAC, systemic arterial compliance; SMD, standard mean difference