Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fighting Inflammation

When a 472 pound gentleman recently arrived for an evaluation for low back pain, he came to the clinic for me to help him, not deride him about his weight (which he complained all his doctors have already done). He claimed he had lost 120 pounds but gained back 50, and his low back was extremely painful with transitional movements and daily function. Undoubtedly, this man’s body was a battlefield for inflammation, and no matter how much manual therapy or exercise I implemented, nutrition education seemed vital. Instead of just chatting about baseball or the weather, competently sharing what we’ve studied and learned in continuing education courses is warranted in our practice.

In a 2016 review Klek reveals the most current evidence regarding Omega-3 Fatty Acids in nutrition delivered intravenously. Although physical therapists do not decide the ingredients for patients’ parenteral nutrition, the article thoroughly explains the essential benefits of fatty acids. Aside from being important structural components of cell membranes and precursors of prostaglandins and cholesterol, fatty acids regulate gene expression and adjust pathways of cells regarding inflammation and cell-mediated immune responses. Ultimately, fatty acids modulate metabolic processes in the body, whether locally, in a particular region, or at remote sites. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to inhibit synthesis of triglycerides by the liver, prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce cancerous cell growth, and even affect the development of rheumatoid arthritis and Chrohn’s disease. This article not only sheds light on parenteral nutrition for post-surgical, oncology, critically ill, and even pediatric patients but also educates the healthcare professional on the impact fatty acids have on the patients we treat.

In 2015, Haghiac et al. performed a randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial to determine if Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could reduce inflammation in pregnant woman who are obese. Although the study began with 36 subjects in each group, only 24 women in the experimental group receiving 4 capsules a day of Omega-3 fatty acid (total of 2000mg) and 25 of the women taking 4 placebo capsules a day completed the supplementation over the 25 weeks up until delivery. The authors referenced the findings that low grade inflammation becomes exacerbated in obese pregnant women. While an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids practically promotes inflammation via eicosanoid (hormone) production, a healthy balance of Omega-3 fatty acids lessens inflammatory and immunosuppressive eicosanoid production. This study demonstrated an improvement in inflammation in the women who took the Omega-3 fatty acid as evidenced by a decrease in the expression of inflammatory genes in adipose tissue and placenta as well as reduced plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) at delivery.

Being able to control or reduce inflammation on a cellular level through nutrition could promote an exciting cycle of positive events for obese patients. Decreased inflammation in the body could decrease pain, which could allow and even promote increased activity and likely boost metabolism to equip them to battle obesity. The “Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist” course should spark the interest of any therapist wanting to guide patients not only on movement and function but also on the appropriate nutrition that best facilitates the body’s ability to heal and perform.

To learn more about nutrition and it's effects on pelvic rehabilitation, check out Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist this month in Lodi, CA.

Klek, S. (2016). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Modern Parenteral Nutrition: A Review of the Current Evidence. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 5(3), 34.
Haghiac, M., Yang, X., Presley, L., Smith, S., Dettelback, S., Minium, J., … Hauguel-de Mouzon, S. (2015). Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Reduces Inflammation in Obese Pregnant Women: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Clinical Trial. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0137309.

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