Study Shows Those With a Higher Omega-3 Index Are More Protected From Severe COVID Infection
Omega-Three fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, might be protective against contracting and/or suffering adverse outcomes of COVID-19 infection.
A study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) explored the role of omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, and whether they might be protective against contracting and/or suffering adverse outcomes of COVID-19 infection.
The study compared the risk for three COVID-19 outcomes: 1-testing positive, 2-hospitalization, and 3-death as a function of baseline plasma DHA levels.
DHA levels (% of total fatty acids) were measured by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy but were converted to Omega-3 Index (red blood cell EPA+DHA%) for this analysis. The three outcomes and relevant covariates were available for 110,584 subjects (hospitalization and death) and for 26,595 ever-tested subjects (positive COVID-19 PCR test result) via the UK Biobank prospective cohort study. These COVID-19 outcomes were assessed between January 2020 and March 2021.
In the fully adjusted models, subjects in quintile 5 (with the highest Omega-3 Index levels) were 21% less likely to test positive than those in quintile 1, and the risk for a positive test was 8% lower for each 1-SD (standard deviation) increase in plasma DHA%. Quintile 5 subjects were also 26% less likely to be hospitalized than those in quintile 1, and risk for hospitalization was 11% lower per 1-SD increase in DHA%.
For death with COVID-19, risk was monotonically lower through quintile 4, but in quintile 5, the risk reduction was partially attenuated and became non-significant. Estimated Omega-3 Index values across the five DHA quintiles ranged from 3.5% (quintile 1) to 8% (quintile 5).
“These values comport well with the Omega-3 Index risk cut points [originally proposed in 2004 for death from cardiovascular disease] of <4% (excessive danger) and >8% (low danger) and indicate that these goal ranges apply to COVID-19 outcomes as effectively,” researchers famous of their paper.
The investigators additionally level out that South Korea and Japan have reported an especially low severity of COVID-19 illness and that though masking practices, social distancing insurance policies and different population-wide interventions little question contributed to this, it’s fascinating to notice that the Omega-3 Index values of wholesome South Korean and Japanese people are about 8-12% and seven–11% respectively, which is way increased in comparison with an Omega-3 Index of 4-5% in Western populations such because the United States.
“A worldwide sample linking increased omega-Three fatty acid intakes with lower rates of death with COVID-19 was documented by Vivar-Sierra et al. Although only suggestive, this observation adds further support for a potential role of omega-3s EPA and DHA in the prevention of fatal COVID-19 disease,” the researchers said.
“This study confirms previous findings that low omega-3 status is associated with increased risk for hospitalization with COVID-19. We extended these findings by also showing reduced risk for testing positive with the infection and by providing evidence that the risk for death may also be reduced,” said Dr. William S. Harris, PhD, FASN, President, Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI). “Furthermore, we identified the Omega-3 Index levels associated with the least (<4%) and greatest (>8%) protection from COVID-19. Altogether these results support the practice of increasing consumption of oily fish like salmon or omega-3 fish oil supplements as a potential risk reduction strategy when it comes to COVID-19.”
Dr. Philip Calder, who wrote an editorial accompanying this publication, said these findings suggest that consuming more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) should be encouraged as a strategy to reduce the impact of the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and of future respiratory virus infection outbreaks. Dr. Calder, BSc(Hons), PhD, DPhil, RNutr, FSB, FAfN, is Professor of Nutritional Immunology within Medicine at the University of Southampton, UK.
“Association between blood N-3 fatty acid levels and the risk of coronavirus disease 2019 in the UK Biobank” by William S. Harris, Nathan L. Tintle, Swaminathan Perinkulam Sathyanarayanan and Jason Westra, 28 February 2023, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Bioactive omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reduced risk and severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection” by Philip C. Calder, 28 February 2023, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.