Background: The n-3 fatty acids in fish oil affect eicosanoid and cytokine production and therefore have the potential to alter renal hemodynamics and inflammation. The effects of fish oil could prevent immunologic renal injury in patients with IgA nephropathy.
Methods: In a multicenter, placebo-controlled, randomized trial we tested the efficacy of fish oil in patients with IgA nephropathy who had persistent proteinuria. The daily dose of fish oil was 12 g; the placebo was a similar dose of olive oil. Serum creatinine concentrations, elevated in 68 percent of the patients at base line, and creatinine clearance were measured for two years. The primary end point was an increase of 50 percent or more in the serum creatinine concentration at the end of the study.
Results: Fifty-five patients were assigned to receive fish oil, and 51 to receive placebo. According to Kaplan-Meier estimation, 3 patients (6 percent) in the fish-oil group and 14 (33 percent) in the placebo group had increases of 50 percent or more in their serum creatinine concentrations during treatment (P = 0.002). The annual median changes in the serum creatinine concentrations were 0.03 mg per deciliter (2.7 mumol per liter) in the fish-oil group and 0.14 mg per deciliter (12.4 mumol per liter) in the placebo group. Proteinuria was slightly reduced and hypertension was controlled to a comparable degree in both groups. The cumulative percentage of patients who died or had end-stage renal disease was 40 percent in the placebo group after four years and 10 percent in the fish-oil group (P = 0.006). No patient discontinued fish-oil treatment because of adverse effects.
Conclusions: In patients with IgA nephropathy, treatment with fish oil for two years retards the rate at which renal function is lost.