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Omega-3 Supplements May Be Harmful in Acute Lung Injury

Last Updated: October 05, 2011.

Twice-daily enteral supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, and antioxidants does not decrease ventilator-free days or improve other clinical outcomes, and may be harmful for patients with acute lung injury, according to a study published online Oct. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Twice-daily enteral supplementation with omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, and antioxidants does not decrease ventilator-free days or improve other clinical outcomes, and may be harmful for patients with acute lung injury, according to a study published online Oct. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Todd W. Rice, M.D., from the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues investigated whether enteral supplementation would increase the number of ventilator-free days to study day 28 in 272 adults within 48 hours of developing acute lung injury. Participants who required mechanical ventilation were randomly allocated to receive twice-daily supplementation of n-3 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, and antioxidants, or an isocaloric control.

The investigators discontinued the study early due to futility after enrolling 143 and 129 patients in the n-3 and control group, respectively. Patients receiving the n-3 supplement had an eight-fold increase in plasma eicosapentaenoic acid levels, but had significantly fewer ventilator-free days (14.0 versus 17.2), intensive care unit-free days (14.0 versus 16.7) and nonpulmonary organ failure-free days (12.3 versus 15.5). The n-3 and control groups had 60-day hospital mortality of 26.6 and 16.3 percent, respectively (P = 0.054), and adjusted 60-day mortality of 25.1 and 17.6 percent, respectively (P = 0.11). Significantly more days with diarrhea resulted from use of the n-3 supplement.

"Twice-daily enteral supplementation of n-3 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, and antioxidants did not improve the primary end point of ventilator-free days or other clinical outcomes in patients with acute lung injury, and may be harmful," the authors write.

Abbott Nutrition provided all supplements used in the study.

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