Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The effect of omega-3 fatty acid intake on inflammation

Dr. Philip Calder from the Institute of Human Nutrition at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom has written a scholarly review on this relationship.

Here are the key points.

  • Experimental work shows that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) work through several mechanisms to decrease inflammation.
  • Once eaten, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are most readily used by the body.
  • However, the relative anti-inflammatory potencies of EPA and DHA aren’t known, and comparisons between them should be made.
  • Evidence of the clinical effectiveness of omega-3 PUFAs is strong in some settings (eg, in rheumatoid arthritis) but weak in others (eg, in inflammatory bowel diseases and asthma).
  • Better-designed, larger trials are needed to assess their value in treating patients.
  • Dr. Calder believes that the anti-inflammatory action of PUFAs might be improved if the intake of omega-6 PUFAs, especially arachidonic acid, is decreased.

Hat tip to Dr. Peter Stanton for the lead.

6/14/07 17:19 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.