Treatment of lupus with omega-3 fatty acids

Ten consecutive patients with systemic lupus erythematosus received capsules containing eicosapentaenoic acid (162 mg/day), docosahexaenoic acid (144 mg/day), vitamin A (1,080 IU/day) and vitamin D (153 IU/day) for periods ranging from 3 months to 3 years (median, 1 year). Prior to treatment, fatty acid analysis of plasma phospholipids showed reduced levels of gamma-linolenic, alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. After treatment, prolonged clinical and biochemical improvement was seen in all patients. All other medications were discontinued and the patients have remained in remission for periods of up to 3 years.

COMMENT: In a strain of mice that spontaneously develops a lupus-like syndrome, administration of omega-3 fatty acids reduced the severity of the disease. Other studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are effective against various autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Although there was no control group in the present study, the results are promising and warrant additional research. However, there is no reason to withhold this treatment pending the results of a double-blind study. Omega-3 fatty acids are safe and relatively inexpensive, and might do a lot of good for patients with lupus.

Das UN. Beneficial effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in the management of systemic lupus erythematosus and its relationship to the cytokine network. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids 1994;51:207-213.