Omega-3 Fatty Acids Promote Gut Health

Intake of omega-3 fatty acids observed to diversify the gut microbiome.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to lower bad cholesterol levels, improve hypertension, and improve overall heart health. The nutrient is naturally present in foods—such as tofu, spinach, fish, and walnuts—but it can also be supplemented.

A new study published by Scientific Reports suggests that omega-3 may additionally promote diverse gut bacteria, which may lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory conditions.

“The human gut is receiving a lot of attention in medical research as it is increasingly linked to a wide variety of health issues,” said lead researcher Ana Valdes, PhD. “Our digestive systems are home to trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial in that they play a vital role in our digestion, immune system and even regulate our weight.”

In the study, the gut microbiome of 876 older women was examined. The authors analyzed the diversity and abundance of good bacteria and their intake of fish oils through food frequency questionnaires.

The investigators found that patients who had higher intake of omega-3 and higher serum levels of the fatty acid had more diverse gut bacteria, according to the study.

Additionally, the authors discovered that certain good bacteria that have been shown to lower inflammation and obesity risk were more prevalent among patients who had a higher intake of omega-3.

“In addition to fish protein and omega-3, high levels of omega-3 in blood are correlated with high levels of a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) in the gut,” said researcher Christina Menni, PhD. “This compound has been shown in animals to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. We believe that some of the good effects of omega-3 in the gut may be due to the fact that omega 3 induces bacteria to produce this substance.”

Previous studies have shown that intake of omega-3 fatty acids may have positive effects on insulin resistance, hypertension, arthritis, blood clots, cancers, and cognitive decline, according to the authors.

The new findings provide further evidence that omega-3s benefit health, in that it diversifies the composition of the gut microbiome, according to the study.

“In conclusion, our data indicate a strong correlation between omega-3 fatty acids and microbiome composition and suggest that supplementation with PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids] may be considered along with prebiotic and probiotic supplementation aimed at improving the microbiome composition and diversity,” the authors concluded. “The study also suggests the translational potential NCG as a supplement to improve gut function and microbiome composition.”