Background & aim: Despite their well known anti-inflammatory actions, the clinical usefulness of omega-3 PUFA in inflammatory bowel disease is controversial. We aimed to systematically review the available data on the performance of omega-3 PUFA as therapeutic agents in these patients.
Methods: Electronic databases were systematically searched for RCT of fish oil or omega-3 PUFA therapy in both active and inactive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, without limitation on either the length of therapy or the form it was given, including nutritional supplements and enteral formula diets. Eligible articles were assessed for methodological quality on the basis of the adequacy of the randomisation process, concealment of allocation, blinding of intervention and outcome, possible biases, and completeness of follow-up. The five-point Oxford quality score was calculated.
Results: A total of 19 RCT were finally selected for this review. Overall, available data do not allow to support the use of omega-3 PUFA supplementation for the treatment of both active and inactive inflammatory bowel disease. Negative results are quite consistent in trials assessing the use of omega-3 PUFA to maintain disease remission, particularly ulcerative colitis, and to a lesser extent Crohn's disease. Trials on their use in active disease do not allow to draw firm conclusions mainly because the heterogeneity of design (ulcerative colitis) or their short number (Crohn's disease). In most trials, the appropriateness of the selected placebo is questionable.
Conclusion: The present systematic review does not allow to make firm recommendations about the usefulness of omega-3 PUFA in inflammatory bowel disease.