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Omega 3-Fatty Acids: Health Benefits and Cellular Mechanisms of Action

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Epidemiological evidence has established that ingestion of long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 PUFAs), abundant in fish oils, have profound effects on many human disorders and diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Here we briefly review the dietary recommendations and the food sources that are naturally enriched by these fatty acids. There are also a number of products including eggs, bread, and cereals available to supplement ω-3 fatty acid dietary intake. Some of these supplements are proposed to aid different pathological conditions. While the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids can no longer be doubted, their molecular mechanism of action remains elusive. Without question, the action of omega-3 fatty acids is complex and involves a number of integrated signaling pathways. This review focuses on one of the possible cellular mechanisms by which the ω-3 PUFAs, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may function. Studies with cancer cells suggest that DHA induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis by activating protein phosphatases, leading to dephosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein (pRB). Protein phosphatases are also involved with the protein Bcl2, which regulates the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and eventually, activation of the apoptotic enzyme caspase 3.
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Keywords: cancer; dietary intake; food supplements; omega-3 fatty acids

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Methodist Research Institute, 1800 N. Capitol Avenue, Noyes E504, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.

Publication date: October 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • The aim of Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry is to publish short reviews on the important recent developments in medicinal chemistry and allied disciplines.

    The scope of Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry will cover all areas of medicinal chemistry including developments in rational drug design, synthetic chemistry, bioorganic chemistry, high-throughput screening, combinatorial chemistry, drug targets, and natural product research and structure-activity relationship studies.

    Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal and pharmaceutical chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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