GENT, BELGIUM. There is evidence that cystic fibrosis patients with high plasma phospholipid levels of omega-3 fatty acids have better lung function than patients with lower levels. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is, unfortunately, often accompanied by fat malabsorption so it is not clear whether oral fat supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids would benefit CF patients.
Researchers at the State University of Gent set up an experiment to see if CF patients are able to absorb omega-3s effectively by mouth. The trial involved 9 CF patients (4 females and 5 males) ranging in age from 7 to 20 years. All had been diagnosed with pancreatic insufficiency and had poor fat absorption despite supplementing with pancreatic enzyme preparations. The patients were assigned to receive either 6 fish oil supplement capsules per day for a month followed by 6 placebo capsules for a month or 6 placebo capsules daily for a month followed by 6 fish oil supplement capsules daily for a month. Each fish oil supplement capsule contained 335 mg of salmon oil and 165 mg of commercial soy lecithin and provided 152 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. The placebo capsules contained 500 mg of pharmaceutical-grade liquid paraffin.
The researchers found that the CF patients who took fish oil supplements showed a marked increase in their phospholipid levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (increase of 327%) and docosahexaenoic acid (increase of 215%; also known as EPA and DHA, respectfully). The levels of EPA and DHA returned to baseline 2 weeks after discontinuing taking the fish oil supplements. The researchers also noted that patients with low initial levels of EPA showed the greatest increase in EPA levels after supplementation. They conclude that oral supplementation with fish oil and lecithin is effective in increasing the levels of omega-3 fatty acids especially EPA and DHA in cystic fibrosis patients.
Christophe, Armand, et al. Increase of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in the major serum lipid classes of patients with cystic fibrosis. Ann Nutr Metab, Vol. 36, 1992, pp. 304-12