Fatty Acids and Bowel Disease

December 4/Islamabad, Pakistan/Daily the Pak Banker -- People who eat lots of red meat, cook with certain types of oil, and use some kinds of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)-heavy margarines may be increasing their risk of a painful inflammatory bowel disease. These foods are high in linoleic acid, and people who are theh eaviest consumers of this omega-6 PUFA are more than twice as likely to develop ulcerative colitis as those who consume the least, Health News reported.

Researchers have found that eating more eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oils, is associated with a lower risk of the disease. While people need a certain amount of linoleic acid to survive, excess amounts are taken up into the lining of the colon, and if they are released, they can promote inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid does the opposite. It basically dampens down inflammation.

To investigate the role of fatty acids and ulcerative colitis, a life-long disease characterized by inflammation of the lining of thelarge intestine, researchers looked at data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) trial, which included over half a million people from 10 European countries. Their analysis included 203,193 men and women 30-74 years old. During follow-up, which ranged from about 2 to 11 years, 126 people developed ulcerative colitis. It was found that people in the top quartile of linoleic acid intake(they were consuming around 13-38g a day) were 2.5 times more likely to have developed the disease than people who consumed the least, about 2-8g daily.

There is currently no proven dietary treatment for ulcerative colitis, but the current findings raise the possibility that eating a diet low in linoleic acid could be helpful. While a Western-style, red-meat-heavy diet is high in this fatty acid and low in omega-3s, a more Mediterranean-style eating pattern with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish and nut oils would be low in linoleic acid and high in omega-3. If omega-3s do help prevent ulcerative colitis, eating a couple of servings of fish a week would probably be protective, the researchers concluded.

From the December 7, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition