Fatty Acids and UC
Omega-6 fatty acids are all over the news for their potential benefits for various health conditions. Linoleic acid is a part of the family of omega-6 fatty acids and is, in part, responsible for the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins have several jobs in the human body, one being to regulate inflammatory mediation. Linoleic acid is found in several food items including cooking oils, red meats and some margarines.
According to a recent prospective cohort study in Gut higher levels of linoleic acid may also play a role in ulcerative colitis. According to the study authors, "An estimated 30% of [ulcerative colitis] cases could be attributed to having dietary intakes higher than the lowest quartile of linoleic acid intake." (1). While the authors did not go as far as to insist UC patients change their diet they did note that investigating the role of a diet low in linoleic acid would be of merit in the future.
The same study also discussed the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. In the group of over 203,000 men and women who participated those with the highest dietary in take of DHA had a 77% reduction in developing ulcerative colitis (1). DHA fatty acid is made by the body through the consumption of alpha linoleic acid. It is also found in fish oils. Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of DHA.
There are also DHA fortified dairy products on the market as well as a manufactured source which is vegetarian and derived from algae. The DHA from algae is also free from many of the potential contaminants people worry about with fish oils such as mercury or dioxins.
Though this study did not give any definitive answers with regard to dietary changes that need to be made in patients with UC it did provide some clues to areas in which research needs to be directed. It is a promising area which may provide insight into future clinical nutrition therapies. In the mean time it might be of some benefit to limit linoleic acid and increase DHA from dietary sources.
Please discuss the use of ANY supplements with your physician before adding them to your dietary plan. While seemingly harmless, some supplements can interfere with medications and only your doctor can determine whether they are appropriate for your treatment plan.