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Fish Oil Significantly Reduces Crohn's Disease Relapse

Crohn's disease is characterized by periods of active disease interspersed with periods of remission. Now researchers at the University of Bologna, Italy report that fish oils prevent relapses.

Their experiment involved 78 patients with Crohn's disease who had been classified as having a high risk of relapse. Half the patients were randomized to receive nine fish oil capsules daily, the other half received nine placebo capsules daily. The fish oil capsules contained 500 mg of a marine lipid concentrate (40 percent eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 20 percent docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) and provided a total of 2.7 grams of n-3 fatty acids per day. The capsules were enteric-coated so as to ensure that they dissolved in the small intestine instead of in the stomach and to minimize unpleasant side effect such as flatulence, heartburn, belching, and diarrhea.

The results of the fish oil therapy were spectacular. While 69 percent of the patients in the placebo control group had a relapse during the one-year study period, only 28 percent in the fish oil group did. At the end of the one-year period, 59 percent of the patients in the fish oil group were still in remission as compared to only 26 percent in the placebo group. The researchers conclude that fish oil therapy (with enteric-coated capsules) is effective in preventing relapses in patients with Crohn's disease in remission.

NOTE: This study was supported in part by Tillotts Pharma of Switzerland, the manufacturer of the enteric-coated fish oil capsules.


Billuzzi, Andrea, et al. Effect of an enteric-coated fish-oil preparation on relapses in Crohn's disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 334, No. 24, June 13, 1996, pp. 1557-60.

Key concepts: Fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, Crohn's disease