Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

A recent study (Janczyk W. J Pediatr 2015; 166: 1358-63; editorial 1335-6) examines whether omega-3 fatty acid supplement would be helpful for overweight/obese children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  This randomized controlled trial had 64 patients complete the study; the median age of enrolled patients was 13 years.

Free Full Text Article: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Therapy in Children with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The treatment cohort received doscosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapenatenoic acid (EPA) at a dose of 450-1300 mg/day.

Key finding:

  • After 6 months, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation did not increase the number of patients with decreased ALT levels and it did not affect liver steatosis on ultrasound.

The editorial reviews a previous positive study for DHA supplementation from Italy (n=60) but notes that other larger trials in adults have not shown efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids (Gastroenterol 2014; 147: 377-84.e1, Hepatology 2014; 60: 1211-21). It could be that much longer studies will be needed to determine whether omega-3 fatty acids will be helpful.

Take-home message: Overall, the sum of these studies indicates that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has not been shown to be effective for NAFLD and it is not likely to be a significant breakthrough.  Even if it were shown to help modestly, would pediatric patients be placed on therapy indefinitely?

Briefly noted:

Kusters DM et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Ezetimibe Monotherapy in Children with Heterozygous Familial and Nonfamilial Hypercholesterolemia” J Pediatr 2015; 166: 1377-84.  Ezetimbe (10 mg), a cholesterol absorption inhibitor, lowered LDL by 27% after 12 weeks from baseline. It was well-tolerated

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