A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of essential fatty acid supplementation in the maintenance of remission of ulcerative colitis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jun;16(6):1131-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2002.01286.x.


Background: Essential fatty acid supplementation has been found to ameliorate certain chronic inflammatory diseases. This effect is thought to be mediated through the modulation of eicosanoid synthesis. Pro-inflammatory eicosanoids have been implicated in ulcerative colitis.

Aim: To investigate the possible therapeutic benefit of essential fatty acids in quiescent ulcerative colitis to reduce the frequency of disease relapse.

Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed with a treatment duration of 12 months. Patients with quiescent disease received either trial medication (gamma-linolenic acid, 1.6 g, eicosapentaenoic acid, 270 mg, and docosahexaenoic acid, 45 mg, per day) or placebo (sunflower oil, 500 mg/day). The primary end-point was disease activity, assessed by a previously validated clinical index, sigmoidoscopic appearance and histology.

Results: Sixty-three patients were randomized, 31 to receive essential fatty acid treatment and 32 to receive placebo. Disease relapse rates were similar at 12 months (placebo, 38%; essential fatty acids, 55%), as were changes in sigmoidoscopic grade from baseline.

Conclusions: The supplementation of the diet with this combination of essential fatty acids does not prolong the period of disease remission of ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Placebos