This biomarker study aimed to quantify the association of essential and other plasma fatty acid biomarkers with macrovascular disease, microvascular disease and death in individuals with type 2 diabetes.A case-cohort study (N = 3576), including 654 macrovascular events, 341 microvascular events and 631 deaths during 5 years of (median) follow-up, was undertaken as a secondary analysis of the Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease: Preterax and Diamicron Modified-Release Controlled Evaluation (ADVANCE) study (full details of the study design and primary endpoints of the ADVANCE trial and its case-cohort have been published previously). This current study considers new data: fatty acids measured from baseline plasma samples by proton NMR analysis. The fatty acids measured were n-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), n-6, linoleic acid, and polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. HRs were modelled per SD higher (percentage) fatty acid. C statistics and continuous net reclassification improvement were used to test the added value of fatty acids compared with traditional cardiovascular risk factors.After adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, an inverse association was observed for n-3 fatty acids and DHA with the risk of macrovascular events (HR [95% CI]: 0.87 [0.80, 0.95] and 0.88 [0.81, 0.96], respectively, per 1 SD higher percentage), and for n-3 fatty acids with the risk of death (HR 0.91 [95% CI 0.84, 0.99] per 1 SD higher percentage). Such associations were also evident when investigating absolute levels of fatty acids. There were no statistically significant associations between any fatty acids and microvascular disease after adjustment. However, there was limited improvement in the predictive ability of models when any fatty acid was added.Plasma n-3 fatty acids and DHA were found to be inversely associated with macrovascular disease, while n-3 fatty acids were also inversely associated with death. These results support the cardioprotective effects of n-3 fatty acids and DHA and further merit testing the role of high-dose supplementation with n-3 fatty acids in individuals with type 2 diabetes.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00145925. Graphical abstract.