Note: This article includes our follow-up suggestions regarding its implications An animal study conducted in Spain tested a diet enriched by a combination of the flavonoid antioxidant quercitrin (QR) and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oils as a means of addressing inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The authors of the study, reported in the June 2006 issue of the European journal Clinical Nutrition, noted that the literature has linked omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as found in substances such as fish oils, to reduction of “markers of inflammation” (the chemical signals that inflammation is present), generally in relation to heart disease. The authors felt that omega-3 oils may also have a beneficial effect on inflammation in the gastric system. But other studies also point to the possibility that PUFAs may inhibit the colon’s antioxidant defense system. Hence the authors decided to test the potential synergies in a mix of PUFAs with the antioxidant supplement QR, an extract of certain barks and peels. They induced colitis in 40 rats, which had been placed on four different diets beginning two weeks previously. Ten of the rats were fed fish oil (a four percent solution in olive oil for a 4.5 to 1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3). Another 10 were fed the fish oil blend plus quercitrin. For further comparison, two other groups of 10 were fed soybean oil (a 15.7 to 1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 more typical of Western diets) and soybean oil plus quercitrin. The authors did not induce colitis in a control group of 10 rats, which was fed standard diet only. After 10 days, the authors measured levels of three inflammatory response markers: tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha, a cytokine frequently elevated in chronic fatigue syndrome), interleukin 1-beta (IL 1-beta), and leukotriene B4 (LTB4). They found that:
- In the group fed fish oil, inflammatory response marker levels were lower than for those fed soybean oil by 49 percent for TNF-Alfa, 31 percent for IL 1-beta, and 39.5 percent for LTB4.
- And for the animals fed fish oil plus quercitrin, these levels were reduced versus those fed soybean oil by 57 percent, 62 percent, and 45 percent, respectively. (Quercitrin has been shown to inhibit the production of TNF-alpha and IL 1-beta in the colon, while the fish oil acts to inhibit TNF-alpha and LTB4. The quercitrin provides a protective antioxidant factor while adding a synergistic effect with the fish oils on inflammation.)
- The levels of the three markers were still higher than levels for the control group without induced colitis. This indicates a reduction of inflammation, but not fully to a normal level, in this laboratory simulation.
The authors conclude “these results support the potential synergism between the administration of the flavonoid and the incorporation of olive oil and omega-3 PUFA to the diet for the treatment of these intestinal inflammatory disorders.” They also note that a mixture including quercitrin could stabilize the light- and heat-sensitive PUFA against oxidative damage and rancidity. The original article, “Intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of combined quercitrin and dietary olive oil supplemented with fish oil, rich in EPA and DHA (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids, in rats with DSS-induced colitis,” by D. Camuesco, et al., was published in the June 2006 issue of Clinical Nutrition, at http://www.intl.elsevierhealth.com/journals/clnu/
What Does This Mean For You?
- Digestive problems caused by inflammation in the gastric system may be helped by regular supplementation with omega-3 fish or flax seed oils.
- The addition of an antioxidant supplement can increase the influence of the omega-3 oils and add a protective factor for the digestive system.