In patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids led to better sleep and fewer symptoms of depression. In addition, there was a trend toward less comorbid fibromyalgia.
Charoenwoodhipong and colleagues at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor point out that omega fatty acids are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties and may be helpful in combating the symptoms of inflammatory disease.
Although limited small studies have shown reduced disease activity in patients with lupus who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements, no rigorous evidence has been reported on the subject. The researchers sought to find an association between dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and patient-reported outcomes in patients with lupus. They reported their findings at the recent American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in San Diego, California.
The authors performed a population-based, cross-sectional study using data from the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance program; 456 patients completed the dietary questionnaires.
• Among the study participants, 425 subjects were female, 207 were black, and the mean age of all subjects was 52.9 years.
• Increasing the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet was associated with increased SLE disease activity.
• No associations were found between fatty acid intake and general quality of life.
• There was a significant effect with regards to sleep quality and a trend to fewer depressive symptoms and less fibromyalgia in those who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids.
Implications for physicians
• Physicians should recommend a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as avoidance of foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids as a part of a balanced diet.
• Patients with SLE may benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
• The US Department of Agriculture already recommends the dietary addition of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
• Combining omega-3-rich foods with other nutrients known for anti-inflammatory properties such as vitamins A, C, and E may help patients with lupus manage their symptoms better.
American College of Rheumatology Press Release. “Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acid Intake May Affect Lupus Outcomes.” November 4, 2017. The ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. San Diego, California.