Research into fish oil suggests health benefits for seriously ill patients
A study into the use of fish oil for patients suffering from a life threatening illness of the immune system has suggested that it can improve their symptoms and reduce the length of stay in hospital.
Researchers from the University of Southampton, in collaboration with a hospital in Portugal, conducted a randomised, controlled trial of 23 patients with sepsis, a serious illness in which the immune system goes into overdrive, causing damage to the person’s organs which can ultimately result in death.
They found that fish oil, introduced intravenously into the blood, improved gas exchange in the lungs, which is the process of transferring oxygen from inhaled air into the blood and the transfer of carbon dioxide from the blood into exhaled air. It also reduced inflammatory chemicals, which are produced during sepsis and can lead to blood clots and organ failure.
Philip Calder, a professor of nutritional immunology at the University’s School of Medicine, is leading the study. He explains: “The results of this study are very encouraging, because they suggest a way that the condition of these very sick patients can be improved.”
Professor Calder and his colleagues found that the patients given fish oil had lower levels of inflammatory agents in their blood, were able to achieve better lung function and left hospital earlier than those who received traditional nutrition.
The study was conducted at the Hospital Padre Americo in Portugal and is published today (Tuesday 19 January 2010) in the medical journal, Critical Care.