Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases

Omega-3 & Autoimmune Diseases

This research paper examines the associations between Omega-3 and autoimmune diseases.


Among the fatty acids, it is the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which possess the most potent immunomodulatory activities. Among the omega-3 PUFA, those from fish oil—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—are more biologically potent than -linolenic acid (ALA).

Some of the effects of omega-3 PUFA are brought about by modulation of the amount and types of eicosanoids made, and eicosanoid-independent mechanisms, including actions upon intracellular signalling pathways, transcription factor activity and gene expression, elicit other effects. Animal experiments and clinical intervention studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in managing inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Coronary heart disease, major depression, ageing and cancer are characterized by an increased interleukin 1 (IL-1), a proinflammatory cytokine.

Similarly, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and lupus erythematosus are autoimmune diseases characterized by a high level of IL-1 and the proinflammatory leukotriene LTB4 produced by omega-6 fatty acids. There have been a number of clinical trials assessing the benefits of dietary supplementation with fish oils in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and migraine headaches. Many of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefits, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.