Fish Oil and Kidney Disorders

ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA. IgA nephropathy is a common kidney disease that often follows a viral infection of the gastrointestinal or upper respiratory tract. There is no known cure for the disease and treatment with steroids, antibiotics, anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, and phenytoin has been ineffective. About 20 to 40% of all IgA nephropathy patients develop renal failure 5 to 25 years after diagnosis.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report that supplementation with fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is highly effective in slowing down the progression of the disease. Their clinical trial involved 106 patients who had been diagnosed with IgA nephropathy. Fifty-five of the patients were randomized to receive 12 fish oil capsules daily (providing 1.87 grams of EPA and 1.36 grams of DHA in total) while the remaining 51 patients received 12 olive oil (placebo) capsules daily.

The progression of the disease was judged by regularly measuring the level of creatinine in blood serum during the two years of the trial. A clear difference was observed. While the patients in the fish group had an average median increase in serum creatinine of only 0.03 mg/dL the patients in the placebo group experienced an increase of 0.14 mg/dL annually indicating that their disease was progressing significantly faster. After four years 40% of the patients in the placebo group had died or developed end-stage renal disease as compared to only 10% in the fish group. No adverse effects of fish oil supplementation were observed.

The Mayo Clinic researchers conclude that fish oil supplementation retards the progression of IgA nephropathy.

Note: This study was partially funded by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, and Seven Seas Health Care, a producer of fish oils.


Donadio, James V., et al. A controlled trial of fish oil in IgA nephropathy. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 331, November 3, 1994, pp. 1194-99
van Ypersele de Strihou, Charles. Fish oil for IgA nephropathy? New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 331, November 3, 1994, pp. 1227-29 (editorial)

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Category: Kidney Disorders