Scientists have published the first direct evidence that suggests higher omega-3 fatty acid levels can lower the risk of dying from the coronavirus infection.
Previous studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that could lower the severity and mortality in COVID-19 patients but up to now there wasn’t enough supporting evidence.
The present study examined 100 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
They analysed those patients blood samples for their omega-3 index (O3I), which is a measure of EPA and DHA levels in red blood cells.
They found that the chance of surviving was nearly four times greater for those with the highest omega-3 index compared with those with the lowest.
The patients were divided into four quartiles based on their omega-3 index, ensuring each quartile contained 25 percent of participants.
The top quartile group consisted of patients with an O3I greater than 5.7 percent and these subjects had a 75 percent reduced risk of death from coronavirus disease compared with those in the 3 lower quartiles.
Dr Arash Asher, the study’s first author, said:
“While not meeting standard statistical significance thresholds, this pilot study—along with multiple lines of evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA—strongly suggests that these nutritionally available marine fatty acids may help reduce risk for adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients.
Larger studies are clearly needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”
Professor Clemens von Schacky, co-developer of the Omega-3 Index, said:
“Asher et al have demonstrated that a low Omega-3 Index might be a powerful predictor for death from COVID-19.
Although encouraging, their findings clearly need to be replicated.”
Clinical studies show that 3 grams a day of EPA and DHA supplementation for 10 weeks can lower levels of circulating inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are messengers in the immune system that regulate the activity of white blood cells.
Dr James H O’Keefe, commenting on the study, said:
“An excessive inflammatory response, referred to as a ‘cytokine storm,’ is a fundamental mediator of severe COVID-19 illness.
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) have potent anti-inflammatory activities, and this pilot study provides suggestive evidence that these fatty acids may dampen COVID-19’s cytokine storm.”
A diet high in oily fish containing EPA and DHA such as mackerel, salmon, herring, trout, albacore tuna, and sardines can be the best way to obtain omega-3.
The study was published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (Asher et al., 2020).