Treatment with long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) can improve clinical outcomes in patients with heart failure (HF). Circulating levels of n-3 PUFA, an objective estimation of exposure, have never been measured in a large cohort of patients with HF.

We measured n-3 PUFA in plasma phospholipids at baseline and after 3 months in 1,203 patients with chronic HF enrolled in the GISSI-Heart Failure trial and randomized to n-3 PUFA 1 g/daily or placebo. N-3 PUFA levels were related to clinical characteristics, pharmacologic treatments, dietary habits, circulating biomarkers, and mortality.

Baseline n-3 PUFA (5.1 ± 1.8 mol%) was associated with dietary fish intake, with an average difference of 43% between patients with the lowest and highest consumptions (P < .0001). Baseline eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) but not docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was inversely related to C-reactive protein, pentraxin-3, adiponectin, natriuretic peptide, and troponin levels. Three-month treatment with n-3 PUFA raised their levels by 43%, independently of dietary fish consumption; increases in EPA levels were associated with decreased pentraxin-3. Low baseline levels of EPA but not DHA were no longer related to higher mortality after the addition of circulating biomarkers to multivariable models.

Before supplementation, circulating n-3 PUFA levels in patients with chronic HF mainly depend on dietary fish consumption and are inversely related to inflammatory markers and disease severity. Three-month treatment with n-3 PUFA markedly enriched circulating EPA and DHA, independently of fish intake, and lowered pentraxin-3. Low EPA levels are inversely related to total mortality in patients with chronic HF.
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