Omega-3 fatty acids: Mechanisms of benefit and therapeutic effects in pediatric and adult NAFLD

Valerio Nobili, Anna Alisi, Giovanni Musso, Eleonora Scorletti, Philip C. Calder, Christopher D. Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is currently considered the most common liver disease in industrialized countries, and it is estimated that it will become the most frequent indication for liver transplantation in the next decade. NAFLD may be associated with moderate (i.e. steatosis) to severe (i.e. steatohepatitis and fibrosis) liver damage and affects all age groups. Furthermore, subjects with NAFLD may be at a greater risk of other obesity-related complications later in life, and people with obesity and obesity-related complications (e.g. metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease) are at increased risk of developing NAFLD. To date, there is no licensed treatment for NAFLD and therapy has been mainly centered on weight loss and increased physical activity. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for patients to adhere to the advised lifestyle changes. Therefore, based on the known pathogenesis of NAFLD, several clinical trials with different nutritional supplementation and prescribed drugs have been undertaken or are currently underway. Experimental evidence has emerged about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a number of health-related functions. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in some foods (oils, nuts and seeds) that also contain omega-6 fatty acids, and the best sources of exclusively omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish, krill oil and algae. In this review, we provide a brief overview of the pathogenesis of NAFLD, and we also discuss the molecular and clinical evidence for the benefits of different omega-3 fatty acid preparations in NAFLD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-120
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 3 2016


  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • eicosapentaenoic acid
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • omega-3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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