Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the paradox of their health benefits and potential harmful effects

Simona Serini, Elena Fasano, Elisabetta Piccioni, Achille Renato Maria Cittadini, Gabriella Calviello

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review

66 Citazioni (Scopus)


There is some evidence to support the toxicity of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their oxidative products, suggesting their involvement in the pathogenesis of different chronic diseases, including cancer. It has been shown that products of PUFA oxidation may exert a carcinogenic action by forming mutagenic adducts with DNA. However, a large amount of evidence accumulated over several decades has indicated the beneficial effects of administration of n-3 PUFAs in the prevention and therapy of a series of diseases. In particular, there is much evidence that n-3 PUFAs exert anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic effects, whereas n-6 PUFAs promote inflammation and carcinogenesis. In our tissues, both of the two classes of PUFAs can be converted into bioactive products, incorporated into membrane phospholipids or bound to membrane receptors, where they may alter, often in opposite ways, transduction pathways and affect important biological processes, such as cell death and survival, inflammation, and neo-angiogenesis. In the present review, we intend to shed light on the paradox of the coexisting healthy and toxic effects of n-3 PUFAs, focusing on their possible pro-oxidant cytotoxic and carcinogenic effect, in order to understand if their increased intake, recommended by a number of health agencies worldwide and promoted by nutraceutical producers, may or may not represent a hazard to human health.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)2093-2105
Numero di pagine13
RivistaChemical Research in Toxicology
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2011


  • Health benefits
  • n-3 PUFA
  • potential harmful effects


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