Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) have beneficial effects on cardiovascular function.

We tested the hypotheses that dietary supplementation with DHA (2 g/day) + EPA (3 g/day) enhances increases in stroke volume (SV) and cardiac output (CO) and decreases in systemic vascular resistance (SVR) during dynamic exercise.

Healthy subjects received DHA + EPA (eight men, four women) or safflower oil (six men, three women) for 6 weeks. Both groups performed 20 min of bicycle exercise (10 min each at a low and moderate work intensity) before and after DHA + EPA or safflower oil treatment. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), SV, CO, and SVR were assessed before exercise and during both workloads. HR was unaffected by DHA + EPA and MAP was reduced, but only at rest (88 +/- 5 vs. 83 +/- 4 mm Hg). DHA + EPA augmented increases in SV (14.1 +/- 6.3 vs. 32.3 +/- 8.7 ml) and CO (8.5 +/- 1.0 vs. 10.3 +/- 1.2 L/min) and tended to attenuate decreases in SVR (-7.0 +/- 0.6 vs. -10.1 +/- 1.6 mm Hg L(-1) min(-1)) during the moderate workload.

Safflower oil treatment had no effects on MAP, HR, SV, CO or SVR at rest or during exercise.

DHA + EPA-induced increases in SV and CO imply that dietary supplementation with these fatty acids can increase oxygen delivery during exercise, which may have beneficial clinical implications for individuals with cardiovascular disease and reduced exercise tolerance.