In the year since the pandemic started, we’ve learned a lot about how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, affects the body. While SARS-CoV-2 primarily attacks the lungs, it can also cause the immune system to go into overdrive, leading to increased inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels and brain.
To combat this inflammation, researchers have studied the impact of several anti-inflammatory agents on COVID-19, with varying results. Corticosteroids, for example, have shown mixed results in treating COVID-19. Some, like dexamethasone, help reduce mortality in certain patients, while others like those used to treat inflammatory bowel disease increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Now, evidence has been discovered that links a key supplement that can help with inflammation with reduced risk of death from COVID-19….
How fish oil may help protect against COVID-19 death
A pilot study has found the first direct evidence that the risk of death from COVID-19 infection may be higher in patients with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Researchers from the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) and collaborators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California observed there are several papers in medical literature suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids should have beneficial effects in patients infected with COVID-19. However, up until now there have been no published peer-reviewed studies supporting that theory.
Previous study findings have suggested the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids — specifically the long-chain acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — may prove beneficial to COVID-19 patients.
The FARI study included 100 patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 for whom admission blood samples had been stored. Researchers obtained clinical outcomes for these patients and analyzed the blood samples for the Omega-3 Index (O3I), a measurement of red blood cell membrane EPA and DHA levels. Fourteen of the 100 patients died.
The 100 patients were grouped into four quartiles according to their O3I, with 25 patients in each quartile. In the top quartile, which included patients with an O3I greater than 5.7 percent, there was one death. By comparison, there were 13 deaths in the remaining three quartiles, whose patients had O3I measurements of less than 5.7 percent.
When adjusting for age and sex, those in the highest quartile were 75 percent less likely to die from COVID-19 compared with those in the lower three quartiles. In other words, the relative risk for COVID-19 death was about four times higher in those with a lower O3I compared to those with higher levels.
“While not meeting standard statistical significance thresholds, this pilot study — along with multiple lines of evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA — strongly suggests that these nutritionally available marine fatty acids may help reduce risk for adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Arash Asher, lead author of the study. “Larger studies are clearly needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”
“An excessive inflammatory response, referred to as a ‘cytokine storm,’ is a fundamental mediator of severe COVID-19 illness,” observes Omega-3 expert Dr. James H. O’Keefe Jr., director of preventive cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. “Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) have potent anti-inflammatory activities, and this pilot study provides suggestive evidence that these fatty acids may dampen COVID-19’s cytokine storm.”
The FARI research team is currently seeking funding to expand upon these preliminary observations.
Best practices for obtaining omega-3s
This isn’t the first time we’ve written about omega-3s’ heroic abilities to save lives from the clutches of excess inflammation. In fact, omega-3s have been found to help heart attack survivors come out on top. A review of 40 separate clinical trials involving the consumption of both DHA and EPS showed that omega-3 intake reduced the risk of heart attack and coronary artery disease.
You’ve heard many times that eating certain types of fish like salmon, tuna, herring, sardines and mackerel is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of one of these types of fish per week and to make sure the fish is free of toxins like PCBs and mercury.
But let’s face it — most people don’t eat that much fish. This is why omega-3 supplements like fish oil and krill oil are a great addition to your diet. The World Health Organization recommends getting 300 mg to 500 mg of combined DHA and EPA daily, while some doctors recommend as much as 2 g to 3 g, making supplementation the best way to achieve these doses.
We’ve written before about the best way to choose an omega-3 supplement. The most important factors to remember are to choose a supplement that’s fresh and free of toxins and additives and to take your omega-3 supplement with a meal that’s high in healthy fats from foods like avocados and olive oil. Studies show that coupling an omega-3 supplement and a meal that contains fat can help your body more effectively absorb the EPA in the supplement.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To find out about these and more, click here to read our free report!
How Does COVID-19 Affect the Heart? — Hackensack Meridian Health
Colchicine may have therapeutic potential against COVID-19 — News Medical Life Sciences
NIH study uncovers blood vessel damage and inflammation in COVID-19 patients’ brains but no infection — National Institutes of Health