Review Articles

Recent Clinical Trials Shed New Light on the Cardiovascular Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids



Three recent clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of marine omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease end points. In the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), 840 mg/d of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) resulted in a 28% reduced risk for heart attacks, 50% reduced risk for fatal heart attacks, and 17% reduced risk for total coronary heart disease events. In the ASCEND trial (A Study of Cardiovascular Events in Diabetes), cardiovascular disease death was significantly reduced by 19% with 840 mg/d of EPA and DHA. However, the primary composite end points were not significantly reduced in either study. In REDUCE-IT (the Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with Icosapent Ethyl–Intervention Trial), there was a 25% decrease in the primary end point of major cardiovascular events with 4 g/d EPA (icosapent ethyl) in patients with elevated triglycerides (135-499 mg/dL) who also were taking a statin drug. For clinical practice, we now have compelling evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. The findings of REDUCE-IT provide a strong rationale for prescribing icosapent ethyl for patients with hypertriglyceridemia who are on a statin. For primary prevention, the goal is to increase the population intake of omega-3 fatty acids to levels currently recommended, which translates to consuming at least one to two servings of fish/seafood per week. For individuals who prefer taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, recent findings from clinical trials support the benefits for primary prevention.


eicosapentaenoic acidEPAdocosahexaenoic acidDHAomega-3 fatty acids
  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 3
  • Page/Article: 171-178
  • DOI: 10.14797/mdcj-15-3-171
  • Published on 1 Jul 2019
  • Peer Reviewed