Essential fatty acid depletion in children with inflammatory bowel disease

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2005 May;40(5):573-7. doi: 10.1080/00365520510012136.


Objective: Children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) suffer from malabsorption and malnutrition and therefore may be at risk of developing polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) deficiency. The aim of this study was to investigate PUFA status in children with IBD and the possible relationship to disease activity and nutritional status.

Material and methods: We assessed the fatty acid composition of plasma phospholipids (%wt/wt) of 21 children aged 5.5-18 years with IBD (ulcerative colitis, 15; Crohn's disease, 6) with mild or moderate disease activity. The clinical symptoms and biochemical indices of disease activity and nutritional status (lean and fat body mass, Hb, albumin serum conc.) were also determined.

Results: The patients had lower phospholipid PUFAs than 13 healthy, aged-matched controls (25.8+/-5.2 versus 34.2+/-5.7, M+/-SD, p<0.001), mainly due to lower values of linoleic acid (18:2n-6, 14.0+/-3.8 versus 18.3+/-4.3, p<0.01) and its major metabolite arachidonic acid (20:4n-6, 5.3+/-2.0 versus 9.3+/-1.9, p<0.0001). There were also higher values of a-linolenic acid (18:3n-3, 0.3+/-0.4 versus 0.2+/-0.1, p<0.01) while the long-chain n-3 PUFA-eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids were normal. Total n-6 PUFA correlated inversely to erythrocyte sedimentation rate (p<0.01), seromucoid (p<0.05) and positively to Hb concentration (p<0.01).

Conclusions: Children with inflammatory bowel disease have a high risk of n-6 PUFA depletion, which is related to disease activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / metabolism*
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / deficiency*
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / metabolism
  • Nutritional Status
  • Phospholipids / blood


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Phospholipids