Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Epidemiology and Biostatistics


BACKGROUND: Air pollution exposure has been associated with adverse cardiovascular health effects. Findings of a recent epidemiological study suggest that omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation blunted cardiac responses to air pollution exposure.

OBJECTIVES: We conducted a randomized, controlled exposure study to evaluate the efficacy of fish oil supplements in attenuating adverse cardiac effects of exposure to concentrated ambient fine and ultrafine particulate matter (CAP).

METHODS: Twenty-nine healthy middle-aged participants (mean 58 ± 1 years of age) were supplemented in a randomized, double-blinded manner with 3 g/day of either fish oil or olive oil for 4 weeks before sequential chamber exposure to filtered air and CAP (mean mass concentration 278 ± 19 μg/m3) for 2 hr. Cardiac responses were assessed by comparing time and frequency domain changes in heart rate variability (HRV) and electrocardiographic repolarization changes measured before, immediately after, and 20 hr after exposure. Changes in plasma lipids were also evaluated at these time points.

RESULTS: Fish oil supplementation appeared to attenuate CAP-induced reductions in high-frequency/low-frequency ratio, as well as elevations in normalized low-frequency HRV and prolongation of the QT interval corrected for heart rate (QTc). Very low-density lipoprotein and triglyceride concentrations increased significantly immediately after exposure to CAP in participants supplemented with olive oil, but not in those supplemented with fish oil.

CONCLUSIONS: Exposure of healthy middle-aged adults to CAP for 2 hr induced acute cardiac and lipid changes after supplementation with olive oil, but not fish oil. Our findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplements offer protection against the adverse cardiac and lipid effects associated with air pollution exposure.


Tong, H., Rappold, A. G., Diaz-Sanchez, D., Steck, S. E., Berntsen, J., Cascio, W. E., ... Samet, J. M. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation appears to attenuate particulate air pollution-induced cardiac effects and lipid changes in healthy middle-aged adults. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(7), 952-957.

DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1104472

Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives

© Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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