Fish Oil Supplements Show Promise for Patients with Lupus

A new study in Nutrition Journal shows that patients suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) demonstrated significant improvement by taking fish oil supplements.

A new study in Nutrition Journal shows that patients suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) demonstrated significant improvement by taking fish oil supplements.

This is a well-studied clinical topic, but the results so far have been mixed. One clinical trial evaluated the effect of fish oil on flow-mediated dilation, disease activity, and fasting lipid panel and found negative results in all but LDL elevation in the fish oil group. Another study, however, showed that SLE patients given fish oil had improved flow-mediated dilation, disease activity, and 8- isoprostanes. An earlier study, also in Nutrition Journal, found a possible mechanism for omega-3 fatty acids’ anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Disease activity improved in patients receiving fish oil as compared to placebo.

The latest study was comprised of 50 patients with SLE in outpatient clinics (32 of whom completed the study), randomized to fish oil supplementation or olive oil placebo and blinded to their treatment group. The patients continued to receive their standard care. At baseline and after six months of treatment, patient attributes were measured using RAND Short Form-36 (RAND SF-36), Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI), and Physician Global Assessment (PGA). Serum was also collected for soluble mediator analysis.

PGA improved significantly in the fish oil group compared with the placebo group (p = 0.015). The RAND SF-36 Energy/fatigue and Emotional well-being scores demonstrated improvement trends (p = 0.092 and 0.070). No clear difference was seen in FSS and SLEDAI (p = 0.350 and p = 0.417).

“Our results are consistent with fish oil studies in other disorders,” the study authors noted, referencing a meta-analysis indicating that it can have a positive effect on major depressive disorder, studies showing improvements in dry eye and multiple sclerosis, and others.

Limitations of the study include the fact that it was “underpowered” for the fatigue and quality of life outcomes. The researchers also noted that age and body mass index may have contributed to the disparity in baseline quality of life measures. Further, multiple patients were undergoing therapy with immunosuppressives and glucocorticoids, which was unavoidable given that the researchers actively included patients receiving standard treatment for SLE.

“Although the study evaluated a small group of patients, there were positive indications in the treatment group for quality of life, fatigue, disease activity, and inflammation biomarkers,” the clinicians concluded.

Given that fish oil supplements are widely available, inexpensive, and present minimal risk, more research into its potential benefits in SLE and other conditions is warranted.