Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is an atherosclerotic disease. Evidence suggests that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition and long chain n-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and fish oils, have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Genetic and lifestyle factors such as body mass index (BMI) also influence inflammation. In this study we have examined the effect of fish oil in patients with claudication secondary to PAD. Fish oil supplementation, providing 1g EPA and 0.7 g DHA per day for 12 weeks, increased walking distance on a treadmill set at 3.2 km/h with a 7% incline. Walking distance to first pain increased from 76.2+/-8.5 m before fish oil to 140.6+/-25.5 m after fish oil (mean+/-SEM, p=0.004) and total distance walked increased from 160.0+/-21.5 m before fish oil to 242.1+/-34.5 m after fish oil (p=0.002). Fish oil supplementation also improved ankle brachial pressure index (ABPI) from 0.599+/-0.017 before fish oil to 0.776+/-0.030 after fish oil (p<0.001).

The increase in walking distance was dependent on both BMI and genotype for single nucleotide polymorphisms in the genes encoding the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin (IL)-1beta and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 (detected using amplification refractory mutation system polymerase chain reaction). Neither BMI nor any of the genotypes examined affected the ability of fish oil to increase ABPI. The mechanisms by which fish oil affects walking distance and ABPI do not appear to be the same.