Hypertension is a worldwide problem that affects up to 22% of adults and contributes to the global burden of disability due to cardiovascular disease. Several factors influence blood pressure and participate to the development of hypertension. Among these factors, polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega-3 family (omega-3 PUFA) are effective hypotensive agents. Through their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, omega-3 PUFA can improve cardiac hemodynamics and vascular function and potentially reduce arterial stiffness and atherosclerotic damage. However, despite this promising evidence many meta-analyses on the cardiovascular effect of omega-3 PUFA were inconclusive. The choice of the omega-3 PUFA sources, baseline tissue content of these fatty acids, and individual compliance to their intake can be reasons for such a discrepancy between studies. Basic and clinical research on these fatty acids documents interesting mechanisms through which these molecules could be useful in the treatment of hypertension and its related organ damage. The role of the maternal dietary habit during pregnancy and the quality of prenatal growth on the effect of omega-3 PUFA in cardiovascular system need further investigations. This chapter summarizes the literature of the past 30 years on the antihypertensive effects of this family of essential fatty acids.
Part of the book: Update on Essential Hypertension