Like Alice’s magic mushrooms (one made her bigger, another made her tiny) it seems omegas can go either way when it comes to your guts. They can prevent or promote the development of GI diseases like IBF, colitis and Crohn’s disease.
New research presented at the 11th Congress of the international Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids in Stockholm suggests that dietary fats impact gut bacteria, some for the better (omega-3s) and others for the worse (omega-6). Basically, the polyunsaturated fatty acids mess with the tiny microbes, gut microbiota, that have set up vast cities in our guts.
Deanna Gibson, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues examined the effects of omega-3 and -6 PUFAs in mice infected with GI bacteria that causes colitis. Those fed omega-6 PUFA (corn oil) diets had higher intestinal damage, immune cell damage and production of harmful bacteria, according to a release about the research. On the other hand, diets high in EPA and DHA increased anti-inflammatory microbes, which reduced immune cell damage and inflammation as well as protected against the damage of colitis. However, the rodents did develop another problem: they keeled over dead. Because their immune responses were impaired, they suffered sepsis – whole body inflammation due to severe infection.
For the entire big picture of the omega-3 business, from sourcing to marketing, check out the new NBJ monograph on omega-3s. Click here to see the Table of Contents and executive summary.
“While too much inflammation isn’t good in the context of autoimmune disease, we also need inflammation to survive against infections,” notes Gibson. “These observations suggest that excess omega-6 PUFA intakes may be harmful to gut health. Conversely, while omega-3 PUFA supplementation promotes beneficial microbes in the gut, thereby decreasing inflammation, this advantage under normal conditions may be problematic in the presence of harmful bacteria.
“Curiously, when a saturated fat-rich diet was supplemented with fish oil, the mice did not suffer from sepsis,” adds Gibson. “These intriguing findings suggest that omega-3 PUFA supplementation with a diet high in saturated fat may be more protective to the GI tract than a diet rich in omega-6 PUFAs.”
One day in the not-so-distant future, you may be able to find those omegas in a big, juicy steak. A Colorado entrepreneur is crowdfunding his cattle drive for omega-3-rich beef.