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Omega-3s as Potential Prebiotics

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 4 December 2021
Omega-3s as Potential Prebiotics

Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively researched for their immune, cognitive, developmental, visual, skin, and cardiovascular influences.

It was previously thought that omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and docosapentaenoic acid (EPA, DHA, and DPA) modulate inflammatory processes primarily by interfering with the metabolism of arachidonic acid.

More recent research has discovered that metabolites of omega-3 fats influence the course of an inflammatory response in an even more dynamic fashion by directly adjusting genomic control of immune cell populations and their functional programming.

Dietary prebiotics are widely recognised as contributing to intestinal production of gut-nourishing short-chain fatty acids and branched-chain fatty acids (SCFAs and BCFAs) like butyric, iso-butyric, acetic, propionic, valeric, and iso-valeric acids. SCFAs and BCFAs are also known to modulate the immune response, glucose and insulin metabolism, and satiety.

In a recent clinical study, 69 adults with low fibre intakes were randomised to receive either 500 mg omega-3 fatty acids (including 165 mg EPA and 110 mg DHA) or 20 g of the prebiotic inulin daily for 6 weeks.

Blood and stool samples were collected at baseline and follow-up visits, at which time body mass index (BMI) and body composition were evaluated.

Diet and lifestyle behaviours were assessed at baseline, 3 weeks, and follow-up using validated questionnaires. Gut microbial diversity, gut microbiome SCFA and BCFA levels, and blood cholesterol and VLDL levels were also analysed at baseline and follow-up.

In conclusion, omega-3 fatty acids showed to have beneficial effects on the gut microbiome at the low dose of 500 mg daily, as the intestinal microflora metabolises them to produce short-chain and branched-chain fatty acids.

Reference:

Vijay A, Astbury S, Le Roy C, Spector TD, Valdes AM. The prebiotic effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation: A six-week randomised intervention trial. Gut Microbes. 2021 Jan-Dec;13(1):1-11. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2020.1863133. PMID: 33382352; PMCID: PMC7781624.

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsNutritional SupplementsEvidence Based ResearchCancer

Associations

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia