For their study, which was reported at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health collected questionnaires from 456 lupus patients. Most were women, approximately half (207) were black, and the average age was about 53. The goal was to evaluate the association between dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and how well lupus patients fare with their disease. Sources of omega-3s include flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils, along with walnuts and various fish — especially cold-water fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids include poultry, eggs, nuts, most vegetable oils and other oils, and pumpkin seeds.
After controlling for other contributing factors, the researchers found that intake of omega-3 fatty acids was significantly associated with better sleep quality and trended toward significant decreases in depressive symptoms. On the other hand, increasing omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the diet were related to higher lupus activity. According to Prae Charoenwoodhipong, one of the study authors, “Many SLE patients suffer from symptoms such as poor sleep, fatigue, and depression. 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.” Besides, as the authors pointed out, daily servings of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are already recommended in the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines on healthy eating.