Omega-3 fatty acids, a new weapon in the fight against the effects of pollution


Maybe you have heard about particulate matter lately, most likely in relation to the air pollution in cities, but do you know what the term “particulate matter” refers to? It is a term that refers to the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. These particles have many sizes (some can be seen with the naked eye, while others are so small that can only be seen with an electron microscope) and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals (must of them emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles). Particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems; particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as fine particles (or PM2.5), pose the greatest risk to health. To get an idea of how small 2.5 micrometers is: a human hair diameter is about 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.

Exposure to particulate matter is the leading environmental risk factor for disease. Although mean annual concentrations at the World Health Organization air quality guidelines have been achieved in Western Europe and North America, evidence from recent studies continues to suggest health effects of exposure, even at low concentrations. It is therefore necessary to find how mitigate the health effects of fine particles.

On the basis that fine particles have pro-inflammatory and constrictor effects on blood vessels, the potential to mitigate fine particles effects of EPA and DHA has been tested on vein endothelial cells (in vitro), and the results are promising. Treatment of these cells with EPA alone, DHA alone, their combination (EPA and DHA), or fish oil containing EPA and DHA was effective in reducing the release of pro-inflammatory and vasoconstrictor substances which are responsible for the inflammatory response and the vasoconstriction.

The mitigation of inflammatory and vasoconstriction effects of fine particles by EPA and DHA in this study indicates their potential to be used for controlling the adverse health effects of pollution. We must persist in our efforts to reduce air pollution despite the difficulties, but this could be a new weapon in the fight against the effects of pollution.


Sriram J, Adetona O, Orchard T, Wu CM, Odei J. Mitigation of Particulate Matter-Induced Inflammation and Vasoactivity in Human Vascular Endothelial Cells by Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(10).

Particulate matter (PM) Pollution [Internet]. United States Environmental Protection Agency [fecha última actualización: 12 de noviembre de 2018]. Disponible en: