Pilot study finds potential link between omega-3 levels and COVID-19 mortality

Researchers with the Fatty Acid Research Institute, in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, recently posted the results of a pilot study which found a potential link between low Omega-3 Index levels and mortality from COVID-19 infection.

Researchers with the Fatty Acid Research Institute, in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, recently posted the results of a pilot study1 which found a potential link between low Omega-3 Index levels and mortality from COVID-19 infection. The study included 100 patients admitted into the hospital with COVID-19, whose blood samples were analyzed for omega-3 levels, and grouped into four quartiles based on Omega-3 Index.

There was one death in the top quartile (Omega-3 Index >5.7%), and 13 deaths in in the lower three quartiles (Omega-3 Index <5.7%). In age-and-sex adjusted regression analyses, patients in the highest quartile were 75% less likely to die compared those in the lower three quartiles, meaning the relative risk of death was four times higher in those with a lower Omega-3 Index compared to those with higher levels.

“While not meeting standard statistical significance thresholds, this pilot study – along with multiple lines of evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA – strongly suggests that these nutritionally available marine fatty acids may help reduce risk for adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Larger studies are clearly needed to confirm these preliminary findings,” said Arash Asher, MD, the lead author on this study, in a press release.

An omega-3 expert not involved with the trial, James H. O’Keefe, Jr., MD, director of Preventive Cardiology, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute (Kansas City, MO) observed in a press release, “An excessive inflammatory response, referred to as a ‘cytokine storm,’ is a fundamental mediator of severe COVID-19 illness. Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) have potent anti-inflammatory activities, and this pilot study provides suggestive evidence that these fatty acids may dampen COVID-19’s cytokine storm.”

The research team is currently seeking funding to expand upon the preliminary observations found in the pilot study.

Reference

  1. Asher A et al. “Blood omega-3 fatty acid and death from COVID-19: a pilot study.” MedRxiv, Published online ahead of print on January 8, 2021