Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A pilot study

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2021 Mar;166:102250. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2021.102250. Epub 2021 Jan 20.


Very-long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 infection. We conducted a pilot study in 100 patients to test the hypothesis that RBC EPA+DHA levels (the Omega-3 Index, O3I) would be inversely associated with risk for death by analyzing the O3I in banked blood samples drawn at hospital admission. Fourteen patients died, one of 25 in quartile 4 (Q4) (O3I ≥5.7%) and 13 of 75 in Q1-3. After adjusting for age and sex, the odds ratio for death in patients with an O3I in Q4 vs Q1-3 was 0.25, p = 0.07. Although not meeting the classical criteria for statistical significance, this strong trend suggests that a relationship may indeed exist, but more well-powered studies are clearly needed.

Keywords: COVID-19; Docosahexaenoic acid; Eicosapentaenoic acid; Inflammation; Omega-3 fatty acids; Omega-3 index; Total mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / blood*
  • COVID-19 / mortality*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Resuscitation Orders


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid