Clinical Nutrition Focus

BASF-backed study links dietary omega-3 intake and NAFLD management

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/morisfoto
©iStock/morisfoto
Eating more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) could help control non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to a meta-analysis of existing data.

Findings from the BASF-financed study concluded that adult and paediatric patients with NAFLD should be encouraged to increase their intakes of omega-3 LC-PUFAs.

“Supplementation with omega-3 LC-PUFAs should be encouraged in the context of increased physical activity and caloric restriction, which effectively reduce the progression of NAFLD and currently constitute the first line of treatment for patients with NAFLD,” ​the analysis said.

According to the paper, NAFLD prevalence in adults with diabetes is reported to be 46.2% in the UK and 69.5% in Italy.

In children and adolescents in Europe, NAFLD prevalence ranges from 2% to 12.5%. However, the prevalence among obese children was much higher: 36% in Germany and 44% in Italy.

Potential mechanisms of action

The mechanism of actions eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) adhere to in aiding liver function are not fully understood.

These omega-3 LC-PUFAs are thought to help promote genes involved fatty acid oxidation whilst inhibiting genes involved in fatty acid production and storage.

Specifically, omega-3 LC-PUFAs may have a role in regulating both the rate of triglyceride production and its storage in the liver.

These suggestions are the result of the meta-analysis that also conclude a minimum effective daily intake to be 250 milligrams (mg) of DHA in paediatric patients and around 3 grams (g) of EPA & DHA in adult patients.

The 18 unique studies that met the criteria for inclusion were divided into 2 sets (omega-3 LC-PUFA and control groups) and study assessments were conducted in duplicate.

The authors—employees of Intertek Scientific & Regulatory Consultancy—concluded that, in addition to following a sensible eating plan and increasing physical activity levels, adult and paediatric patients with NAFLD should be encouraged to increase their intakes of omega-3 LC-PUFAs.

Effective daily dosages

“The meta-analysis provides further evidence that increasing the intake of omega-3 LC-PUFAs can help with the dietary management of NAFLD,”​ commented Christoph Garbotz, head of commercial management advanced health solutions at BASF.

While effective daily dosages were suggested, the analysis could not pin down a minimum effective intake.

Interestingly, the analysis could not be certain that EPA was necessary for clinical efficacy, given that efficacy has been reported in children with supplements containing only DHA.

“Additional studies are required to resolve these important questions,”​ the analysis added. “It is imperative that biological measures of compliance be assessed to ensure participants in the active intervention group consume the omega-3 LC-PUFA supplements and those in the control group do not increase their intakes of omega-3 LC-PUFAs (eg, from marine sources).

Source: Nutrition Reviews
Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy022
“Systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled intervention studies on the effectiveness of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Authors: Kathy Musa-Veloso, et al

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