Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid intake may affect lupus outcomes

November 5, 2017, American College of Rheumatology
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with better sleep quality and a decrease in depressive symptoms in lupus patients, among other patient-reported outcomes, according to new research findings presented this week at the 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Lupus is a chronic (long-term) inflammatory autoimmune disease in which an unknown trigger causes the body's immune system to attack its own healthy tissues. The most common type of lupus is (SLE), a complex, multiple symptom disease that can cause inflammation, pain and damage to various parts of the body. While anyone can develop lupus, it occurs 9-10 times more often in women than in men, and is 2-3 times more common among women of color.

Omega have an effect on inflammation in the body, with generally acting as an anti-inflammatory and omega-6 fatty acids acting as a pro-inflammatory. Western diets are often much higher in omega-6 fatty acids, and they are suspected to contribute to chronic diseases.

While small studies show an association between omega-3 supplementation and reduced disease activity in lupus . Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor examined their impact on patient-reported outcomes, or PROs. They performed a population-based, cross-sectional study to look for a possible association between dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and PROs in lupus patients. Data from the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance (MILES) program was used.

"Western diets are thought to contribute to an increase in people with chronic conditions including autoimmune diseases. Many small studies found that omega-3 supplementation was associated with an improvement in disease activity in SLE patients, but no studies have looked at omega-3 exposure through diet or its impact on PROs," said Prae Charoenwoodhipong, MS, a graduate student in the Department of Nutrition Science at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. "Also, very few studies have looked at the impact of omega-6, an inflammatory fatty acid that is very common in U.S. diets. According to rheumatologists I've worked with, patients with SLE are always asking about what they might be able to do with supplements or their diet to help improve their health."

The MILES program includes SLE patient cases from southeast Michigan. The researchers collected data on dietary intake of at baseline using questions from the National Cancer Institute's Diet History Questionnaire. Patient-reported outcome data included the Systemic Lupus Activity Questionnaire (SLAQ), RAND 36 Healthy Survey, Fibromyalgia (FM) Scale, PROMIS Sleep Disturbance (short form 8b) and PROMIS Depression. The researchers also made adjustments for covariates like age, sex, race, energy intake and body-mass index in their analysis of the association between omega-3 and and patient-reported outcomes.

For the study, 456 out of 462 SLE patients enrolled in the program completed the dietary questionnaires at baseline. Of these, 425 were female, 207 were black, and the mean age of the participants was 52.9 years. After controlling for covariates, they found that increasing omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the diet were associated with SLE .

Intake of omega-3 fatty acids was also significantly associated with better sleep quality and trended toward significant decreases in depressive symptoms and the presence of comorbid fibromyalgia. The researchers did not observe any associations between fatty acid intake and general health-related quality of life measures.

"Many SLE patients suffer from symptoms such as poor sleep, fatigue and depression," said Charoenwoodhipong. "While current treatments have been wonderful at addressing pain, we haven't been able to offer therapies that really help with these other symptoms. Eating more foods that are high in omega-3 and avoiding a lot of foods that are high in omega-6 could be a low-toxicity intervention that is easily available for SLE patients to help address these symptoms.

"Recommending daily servings of fatty fish, nuts and seeds that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids is consistent with the USDA guidance on healthy goals for all Americans. So, it seems reasonable that rheumatologists could be giving out this advice to their patients."

According to Charoenwoodhipong, this study is a first step in helping rheumatologists better understand the role of diet in SLE management and future studies should investigate whether omega-3-rich foods could help manage symptoms in , as well as to identify other nutrients that may be beneficial, such as vitamins A, C or E.

Explore further: Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood pressure in young, healthy adults

Related Stories

Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood pressure in young, healthy adults

November 14, 2016
Healthy young people may be able to help prevent the onset of high blood pressure by eating diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, according to a preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions ...

Study finds new link between omega fatty acids and bowel cancer

June 28, 2017
A study by the University of Aberdeen has found that a higher concentration of the molecules that breakdown omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a higher chance of survival from bowel cancer.

Omega 3 helps the gut stay healthy, study finds

September 11, 2017
Taking omega-3 as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fibre and probiotic foods can improve the diversity of the gut microbiome according to a new study by researchers at the University of Nottingham and King's College ...

Understanding how omega-3 dampens inflammatory reactions

August 23, 2017
Omega-3 fatty acids, which we primarily get through eating fatty fish, have long been thought to be good for our health. Many dietary studies have suggested that high intake is associated with a reduced risk of various disorders. ...

Why fish intake by pregnant women improves the growth of a child's brain

January 14, 2016
Researchers at Tohoku University's School of Medicine have found an explanation for the correlation between eating fish during pregnancy, and the health of the baby's brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

Recommended for you

Osteoarthritis could be treated as two diseases, scientists reveal

January 10, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered that most people with osteoarthritis can be subdivided into two distinct disease groups, with implications for diagnosis and drug development.

US arthritis prevalence is much higher than current estimates

November 27, 2017
New research indicates that the prevalence of arthritis in the United States has been substantially underestimated, especially among adults

Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

November 20, 2017
Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

Old World monkeys could be key to a new, powerful rheumatoid arthritis therapy

November 16, 2017
In the quest for a new and more effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC looked to a primate that mostly roams the land in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It was ...

Study lists foods for fighting rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and progression

November 8, 2017
A list of food items with proven beneficial effects on the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is provided in a new study published today in Frontiers in Nutrition. The authors suggest incorporating these foods ...

Prototype equipment can detect rheumatoid arthritis

September 28, 2017
According to a first clinical study published in the scientific journal Photoacoustics, the University of Twente and various European partners have designed a device that shows the difference between healthy fingers and arthritic ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (2) Nov 05, 2017
Wherever omega 3 ffa's improve prognosis, suspect that skin surface lipids will be curative. The pheromonal stereochemistry of omega 3 ffa's resembles human skin surface lipid stereochemistry.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.