Findings from short-term randomized trials indicate that dietary supplements of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PFA) lower blood pressure of hypertensive persons, but effect size in nonhypertensive individuals is small and nonsignificant. Data are lacking on food omega-3 PFA and blood pressure in general populations.

The International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) is an international cross-sectional epidemiologic study of 4680 men and women ages 40 to 59 from 17 population-based samples in China, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States. We report associations of food omega-3 PFA intake (total, linolenic acid, long-chain) of individuals with blood pressure.

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were measured 8 times at 4 visits. With several models to control for possible confounders (dietary, other), linear regression analyses showed inverse relationship of total omega-3 PFA from food (percent kilocalories, from four 24-hour dietary recalls) to systolic and diastolic blood pressures. With adjustment for 17 variables, estimated systolic blood pressure/diastolic blood pressure differences with 2 standard deviation higher (0.67% kcal) omega-3 PFA were -0.55/-0.57 mm Hg (Z-score -1.33, -2.00); for 2238 persons without medical or dietary intervention, -1.01/-0.98 mm Hg (Z -1.63, -2.25); for 2038 nonhypertensive persons from this sub-cohort, -0.91/-0.92 mm Hg (Z -1.80, -2.38). For linolenic acid (largely from vegetable foods), blood pressure differences were similar, eg, for the 2238 "nonintervened" individuals, -0.97/-0.87 mm Hg (Z -1.52, -1.95); blood pressure differences were -0.32/-0.45 mm Hg for long-chain omega-3 PFA (largely from fish).

In summary, food omega-3 PFA intake related inversely to blood pressure, including in nonhypertensive persons, with small estimated effect size. Food omega-3 PFA may contribute to prevention and control of adverse blood pressure levels.