n-3 fatty acids and urinary excretion of nitric oxide metabolites in humans

William S. Harris, Gro Siri Rambjør, Sheryl L. Windsor, Dennis Diederich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Fish oils rich in n=3 fatty acids have been shown to augment endothelium-dependent vasodilation in human peripheral and coronary arteries. This suggests that n=3 fatty acids may enhance arterial nitric oxide production. To explore this hypothesis we measured total urinary nitrate output in healthy volunteers supplemented with a fish oil concentrate (FOC; n = 15) or purified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; n = 14) in a placebo- controlled, parallel-group study. The FOC contained 41% EPA and 23% docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) ethyl esters, whereas EPA was 91% pure; the placebo contained olive oil ethyl esters. Doses were 5 g placebo, 5 g FOC, and 3 g EPA to keep the total n=3 fatty acid content equal in the latter two groups. The placebo period was 2 wk long and was followed by a 3-wk n=3 fatty acid phase. At the end of each period, 24-h urine collections and fasting blood samples were obtained. Serum and urinary nitrate concentrations were measured in a blinded fashion. The FOC produced a 43% increase in daily, creatinine-adjusted, nitrate excretion rates (P < 0.029). Because serum nitrate concentrations were not different, these findings suggest that FOC supplementation may stimulate systemic nitric oxide synthesis. The lack of effect with EPA supplementation suggests that this component of the FOC is not likely to be an active component. If confirmed, these observations suggest another mechanism whereby n=3 fatty acids may be antiatherogenic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-464
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Fish oil
  • docosahexaenoic acid
  • eicosapentaenoic acid
  • nitric oxide
  • vascular endothelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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