PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Hypothesis-generating systematic review of the impact of marine-derived omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on lipid, glycemic and hematological risk factors in type 2 diabetes using pooled data from randomized controlled trials searched up to 20 September 2008.

RECENT FINDINGS: Seven new trials in 2007 and 2008 were identified from 206 abstracts to give a total of 24 trials between 1966 and 2008 involving 1533 participants that could be pooled. The mean omega-3 PUFAs dose and duration of treatment in the new trials was 2.4 g/day and 24 weeks, respectively. Compared with placebo, omega-3 PUFAs supplementation decreased triglycerides by 7% (mean -0.17 mmol/l, 24 trials, 1530 participants), fibrinogen by 10% (mean -0.96 micromol/l, three trials, 159 participants), ADP platelet aggregation to ADP by 22% (mean -10.30%, two trials, 64 participants) and to collagen by 21% (mean -10.55%, two trials, 64 participants), with an LDL-cholesterol increase of 3% (mean 0.08 mmol/l, 21 trials, 1104 participants). None of the following risk factors appeared to be beneficially influenced: HDL-cholesterol, LDL particle size, glycemia, insulinemia, inflammatory biomarkers, blood pressure. However for some of these risk factors (such as inflammatory biomarkers) the number of trial patients was small Higher doses of omega-3 PUFAs (>or=2 g/day) may have greater triglyceride lowering effects.

SUMMARY: This systematic review and meta-analysis confirms the triglyceride lowering effects of omega-3 PUFAs, demonstrates potential dose-response effects and shows improvements in thrombogenesis. Omega-3 PUFAs raise LDL levels without concomitant changes in lipid particle size. Changes seen in conventional risk factors are insufficient to explain the cardiovascular disease risk reductions suggested to occur with omega-3 PUFAs.