Research: ALMALLAH and colleagues,

Listed in Issue 36


ALMALLAH and colleagues, Department of Surgery, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom writes that it has been recently postulated that patients suffering from ulcerative colitis have altered natural cytotoxicity. The authors evaluated the role of omega-3 EFA in the modulation of natural cytotoxicity and disease activity in patients with distal procto-colitis .



Altered cytotoxicity was shown to occur with natural killer (NK) and lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cell activities. The authors showed previously that the essential fatty acids (EFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) specifically inhibit natural cytotoxicity. Patients were randomised into two groups: in the experimental group (n = 9) patients received fish oil extract (EPA, 3.2 g and DHA, 2.4 g); in the placebo group patients (n = 9) received sunflower oil, daily in a double-blind manner for 6 months. Disease activity was assessed monthly using clinical and sigmoidoscopic scores; histological evaluation of mucosal biopsies were determined and circulating levels and activities of NK and LAK cells were monitored.


Following 6 months' supplementation with EFA, there was improvement in clinical activity compared with the pre-treatment evaluation. Compared to the placebo group, there was significant reduction in the sigmoidoscopic and histological scores in the EFA group. There was also significant reduction in the circulating numbers of CD16+ and CD56+ cells and cytotoxic activity of NK cells in the EFA group compared with the placebo group.


Omega-3 fatty acids suppress natural cytotoxicity and reduce disease activity in patients with distal procto-colitis. These results suggest a therapeutic strategy to manage patients with inflammatory bowel disease.


Almallah YZ et al. Distal procto-colitis, natural cytotoxicity, and essential fatty acids. Am J Gastroenterol 93(5): 804-9. May 1998.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of highly painful and distressing conditions. It is good news that supplementation with fish oils improves and reduces disease and cytotoxic activity of natural killer cells in patients suffering from IBD.

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