Fish consumption and its lipid modifying effects – A review of intervention studies

James McMullan, Alison J. Yeates, Philip J Allsopp, Maria S Mulhern, JJ Strain, Edwin van Wijngaarden, Gary J. Myers, Emelyn Shroff, Conrad Shamlaye, Emeir M. McSorley

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Fish is an important source of nutrients, particularly the long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs). The incorporation of fish into the diet has been shown to have several health benefits, including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Elevated plasma lipids are one of the main modifiable risk factors contributing to CVD and may be partly mediated by n-3 PUFAs. Although n-3 PUFAs in the form of supplementation have been shown to exert lipid modifying effects, the effects of fish consumption on the lipid profile have not been well summarised to date. Therefore, the aim of the present review is to discuss the current evidence from intervention studies investigating the effect of fish consumption on the lipid profile in both apparently healthy and non-healthy populations. Existing evidence appears to support the role of fish in promoting a shift towards a less inflammatory lipid profile through raising n-3 PUFAs and potentially lowering n-6 PUFA and triglyceride concentrations in both healthy and non-healthy populations. Fish consumption has a negligible effect on cholesterol concentrations; however, fish consumption may promote a small increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol amongst people with lower HDL at baseline. Limited studies have shown fish consumption to result in shifts in phospholipid and sphingolipid species and structure, albeit it is not yet clear whether these alterations have any meaningful impact on CVD risk. Future well-designed studies that utilise NMR and/or lipidomics analysis are warranted to explore the effects of these shifts in lipid content and structure in the context of disease development. Public health guidance should emphasise the cardioprotective benefits of fish and encourage consumption particularly in the Global North where fish consumption remains low.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-96
Number of pages15
Early online date11 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 11 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • fish
  • lipids
  • cardiovascular disease
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Fish
  • Lipids


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