Starting in the 1970s the hypothesis that the low mortality from coronary heart disease among the Greenland Eskimos was due to their high consumption of n-3 fish oil fatty acids, initiated many studies to find if the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oils (PUFAs) could prevent cardiac atherosclerosis. To date this possibility has not achieved clinical recognition.

The recent literature shows an increase of intervention studies to learn if the fish oil fatty acids can reduce mortality from sudden cardiac death, and the mechanism(s) of such a protective effect. Indeed the most definite beneficial cardiac action of these n-3 PUFAs seems now to be their ability in the short term to prevent sudden cardiac death.

It is apparent that over long periods of time the n-3 fish oil fatty acids also prevent atherosclerosis. Definition of the fatty acids to which I will be referring in the text: n-6 (omega-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids; linoleic acid (18:2n-6, LA); arachidonic acid (C20:4n-6, AA). n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids; alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3, ALA); eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3, EPA); docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6n-3, DHA). The bold, underlined abbreviation will appear in the text to identify the fatty acid being discussed.