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.
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