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Fish Oil May Not Prevent Crohn’s Relapse

Studies Show That Taking Omega-3 Fatty Acids Do Not Protect Against Flare-ups of Crohn’s Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 8, 2008 - Taking omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful for many things, but maybe not for preventing a relapse of Crohn's disease.

Two related studies show that omega-3s are not effective in preventing inflammation associated with Crohn's disease.

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect anywhere along the digestive tract. With Crohn's, a patient may experience periods of remission and recurrence.

Researchers looked at whether high doses of omega-3s worked as maintenance therapy in patients with Crohn's disease in remission. A total of 738 people participated in two studies. No significant differences were observed between the two treatment groups in either trial.

In one study, 363 participants were assigned randomly to take either a daily omega-3 supplement or a placebo for 52 weeks. In the second study, 375 participants took the pills for 58 weeks.

Researchers say the results in the first and second study were similar. Here are some of the findings:

In the first study:

  • 54 patients treated with omega-3s had a relapse.
  • 62 patients who received a placebo relapsed.

There was no statistically significant difference in rate of relapse between the treatment and placebo groups.

In the second study:

  • 84 patients who took an omega-3 gelatin capsule had a relapse.
  • 94 patients who received a placebo had a relapse.

There was no statistically significant difference in rate of relapse between the treatment and placebo groups.

The research took place between January 2003 and February 2007 at centers across Canada, Europe, Israel, and the U.S.

Researchers found that even after a year of follow-up care, omega-3 fatty acids did not seem to provide any significant benefit to preventing a relapse.

The studies show no serious adverse effects for people with Crohn's disease who take large doses of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and have been used in the treatment of inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids can also benefit those with heart disease and other problems.

The study authors write that their research is "important" because it's "widespread" among people with Crohn's disease to turn to omega-3 supplements for help based on the positive results of previous research.

The research appears in the April 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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