BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Researchers at the Boston University Medical Center report that patients with chronic gastrointestinal disorders have abnormal essential fatty acid profiles. Their study involved 25 patients with Crohn's disease, 11 with ulcerative colitis, 4 with celiac sprue, and 7 with short bowel syndrome. The patients and 56 non-obese healthy controls all provided fasting blood samples which were used to determine the fatty acid content of whole plasma. The researchers found that the patients tended to have significantly lower overall levels of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat than did the controls. Their fatty acid profile was also shifted so that the percentage of polyunsaturated fat was lower than in the controls.
The researchers conclude that patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, sprue, and short bowel syndrome suffer from a deficiency of essential fatty acids. They believe this deficiency is not only a consequence of the disorder, but also contributes to it by interfering with the renewal and formation of new cells in the gut. They suggest that this deficiency needs to be corrected by adding essential fatty acids omega-3 and/or omega-6 oils to the diet in the ratio required to eliminate the abnormalities. The researchers caution that some patients may not be able to metabolize the precursor omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids and may need to be supplemented directly with the metabolites, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and gamma-linolenic acid if needed, in the form of periodic intravenous infusions. [58 references]
Siguel, Edward N. and Lerman, Robert H. Prevalence of essential fatty acid deficiency in patients with chronic gastrointestinal disorders. Metabolism, Vol. 45, January 1996, pp. 12-23