Omega Fatty Acids and Crohn’s Disease

Dietitians and doctors often tout the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, as well as some plant and nut oils, for reducing inflammation, but a new study indicates that other types of omegas might actually cause inflammation for those with Crohn’s disease.

An inflammatory disease of the digestive tract, those with Crohn’s disease experience abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. It is not clear exactly what causes Crohn’s disease, and as of yet, there is no cure; however, those with the condition can alleviate their symptoms with medication and diet.

In the new study, published in the journal Genome Biology, researchers at the Duke School of Medicine found that palmitic acid — a saturated fatty acid found in olive oil and milk products such as butter and cheese, as well as meat — increased inflammation in zebrafish with an animal model of Crohn’s disease.

On the other hand, linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils, decreased inflammation in the fish. This fat has been shown to occur at low levels in the blood of those with Crohn’s disease.

The researchers note that more analysis of fatty acids and Crohn’s disease is required, and while it could be premature to dramatically change eating habits, this research provides a good first step for exploring possible dietary treatments for Crohn’s.

Read more about the study here.


Last Reviewed September 17, 2015

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