Food and Behaviour Research

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Maintenance of remission in inflammatory bowel disease using omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil): a systematic review and meta-analyses

Turner D, Shah PS, Steinhart AH, Zlotkin S, Griffiths AM. (2011) Inflamm Bowel Dis.  17(1): 336-45.  

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The objective was to systematically review the efficacy and safety of n-3 (omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil) for maintaining remission in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

Electronic databases were searched systematically for randomized controlled trials of n-3 for maintenance of remission in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies of patients of any age group who were in remission at the time of recruitment and were followed for at least 6 months were included. The primary outcome was relapse rate at the end of the follow-up period.

Nine studies were eligible for inclusion; six studies of CD (n = 1039) and three of UC (n = 138).

There was a statistically significant benefit for n-3 in CD (relative risk (RR) 0.77; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61-0.98); however, the studies were heterogeneous (I(2) = 58%). The absolute risk reduction was -0.14 (95% CI: -0.25 to -0.02). Opinions may vary on whether this is a clinically significant effect. Two well-done studies with a larger sample size reported no benefit. A sensitivity analysis excluding a small pediatric study resulted in the pooled RR being no longer statistically significant. A funnel plot analysis suggested publication bias for the smaller studies.

For UC, there was no difference in the relapse rate between the n-3 and control groups (RR 1.02; 95% CI: 0.51-2.03). The pooled analysis showed a higher rate of diarrhea (RR 1.36; 95% CI: 1.01-1.84) and symptoms of the upper gastrointestinal tract (RR 1.96; 95% CI: 1.37-2.80) in the n-3 treatment group.

There are insufficient data to recommend the use of omega 3 fatty acids for maintenance of remission in CD and UC.