Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases

omega 6 fatty acidsThe omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), among the fatty acids possess the most potent immunomodulatory activities, and amongst the omega 3 PUFA, those from fish oil [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] are more biologically potent than a-linolenic acid (LNA). Some of the effects of omega 3 PUFA are brought about by modulation of the amount and types of eicosanoids made and other effects are elicited by eicosanoid independent mechanisms, including actions upon intracellular signaling pathways, transcription factor activity, and gene expression.

LA and most polyunsaturated fatty acids, including AA and EPA were lower [depleted] in heart attack victims. ….The fatty acid patterns of phospholipids is an independent risk factor for heart disease. “Fatty Acid Composition of Serum Lipids Predicts Myocardial Infarction,” British Medical Journal, Oct. 9, 1982, 285:993.

It has been indicated by animal experiments and clinical intervention studies that omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore, they might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Aging, cancer, coronary heart disease and major depression are characterized by an increased level of interleukin I (IL-1), a proinflammatory cytokine. In other words, these chronic diseases have a proinflammatory component. Similarly, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and lupus erythematosus are autoimmune diseases characterized by a high level of IL-I and the proinflammatory leukotriene LTB4  produced by omega 6 fatty acids.

Thus, in humans, LA increases proinflammatory cytokine secretion, whereas fish oil reduces proinflammatory cytokine secretion. There have been a number of clinical trials assessing the benefits of dietary supplementation with fish oils in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and migraine headaches. Many of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefit, including decreased disease activity, and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.


Mike Maunu – Founder