Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammatory processes and inflammatory bowel diseases

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Abstract

With regard to inflammatory processes, the main fatty acids of interest are the n-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA), which is the precursor of inflammatory eicosanoids like prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4, and the n-3 PUFAs eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in oily fish and fish oils. EPA and DHA inhibit AA metabolism to inflammatory eicosanoids. They also give rise to mediators that are less inflammatory than those produced from AA or that are anti-inflammatory. In addition to modifying the lipid mediator profile, n-3 PUFAs exert effects on other aspects of inflammation like leukocyte chemotaxis and inflammatory cytokine production. Some of these effects are likely due to changes in gene expression, as a result of altered transcription factor activity. Fish oil has been shown to decrease colonic damage and inflammation, weight loss and mortality in animal models of colitis. Fish oil supplementation in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases results in n-3 PUFA incorporation into gut mucosal tissue and modification of inflammatory mediator profiles. Clinical outcomes have been variably affected by fish oil, although some trials report improved gut histology, decreased disease activity, use of corticosteroids and relapse.

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