12 January - 20 June 2016

Omega-3 supplementation may improve gut microbiome diversity

Researchers from the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine, and King's College London have reported a link between omega-3 fatty acids intake and gut microbiome diversity. Previous research has suggested DHA, an omega-fatty acid, to be associated with lower risk of cardiovascular events.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine, and King's College London have reported a link between omega-3 fatty acids intake and gut microbiome diversity.  Previous research has suggested DHA, an omega-fatty acid, to be associated with lower risk of cardiovascular events.  Whilst the positive effect of total omega-3 levels in humans (DHA+EPA) have been found to be associated with lower blood pressure, slowing cognitive decline amongst others. The researchers of this current study, published in Scientific Reports, note that previous studies have also suggested that "gut microbiota may also play an important role in the effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated acids on clinical parameters."  

Valdes et al. analysed data on levels of DHA, total omega-3 serum levels and microbiome data from 876 middle aged and senior female twins. The participant’s daily fibre and essential fatty acid intake was estimated using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy the team measured circulating levels of DHA, total omega-3 (FAW3), α linoleic acid (LNA), total omega 6 fatty acids (FAW6), total polyunsaturated fatty acids (total PUFA), saturated fatty acids and total fatty acids in fasting serum samples. Valdes et al. then measured metabolite concentrations from 707 faecal samples.  The team measured 424 known metabolites, present in at least 80% of all samples.

Valdes et al. found a "significant correlation" between omega-3 fatty acid intake and blood levels of total omega-3.  After making adjustments they found that circulating levels of total omega-3 and DHA were associated with higher microbiome diversity, particularly for the species Lachnospiraceae.  The study notes that in humans it has been reported that members of the family Lachnospiraceae have been associated with protection against C. difficile infections and obesity, as well as being "potent short chain fatty acid producers".  Increased levels of serum DHA have also been “negatively associated with Crohn’s disease severity and intestinal inflammation."

38 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were found to be associated with circulating DHA. However, circulating levels of saturated fatty acids or monounsaturated fatty acids were found to have no significant association with microbiome diversity. Whilst Valdes et al. report that the DHA effect was independent of fibre, they state "it is well known that short chain fatty acids (SCFA) result from microbial fermentation of fibre."  They suggest therefore that "nutritional studies may be required to quantify and dissect the contribution of these types of dietary components on microbiome composition and SCFA production."  

In conclusion, the authors state "our data indicates a strong correlation between omega-3 fatty acids and microbiome composition and suggest that supplementation with PUFAs may be considered along with prebiotics and probiotic supplementation aimed at improving the microbiome composition and diversity."

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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