OMEGA-3: POTENTIAL HELPERS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID?

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Given the profound public health concerns related to the current covid-19 pandemic, there is a need to identify, with some urgency, potential preventive factors for the development of serious and critical complications, especially if based. on nutrition, so as to be able to act in advance and reduce the risk of death.

According to data provided to us by the WHO at the end of 2020, over 80 million people around the world were diagnosed with Covid-19 positivity throughout the year and over 1.8 million died. As we have already mentioned, Covid-19 infection can cause different symptoms in some patients while in other cases it can remain totally asymptomatic despite the positivity to the virus. However, a minority of patients may develop very serious symptoms and complications such as interstitial pneumonia, septic shock, adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), stroke, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and multiple organ failure (MODS).

The most severe form of the disease and therefore death is in part mediated by a rapid increase in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines including TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6, which leads to a condition called cytokine release syndrome or "cytokine storm" resulting in the development of a strong inflammatory state.

In the study that we intend to present to you, an interesting preventive approach to covid-19 infection was undertaken with the aim of minimizing the release of cytokines thanks to the fatty acids of the omega-3 series.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) considered essential, in particular, their precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which cannot be synthesized by the body, and therefore must be taken by food. We find ALA mainly in vegetable sources such as flax and chia seeds and walnuts, while blue fish such as mackerel and anchovies but also other fish such as salmon and sea bream are rich in acid. eicosapentaneum (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids exhibit various biological activities including the ability to:

  • upregulate the activation of cells such as macrophages, neutrophils, T cells, B cells and natural killer cells, playing an important role in the activation of the immune system,
  • regulate the fluidity of cell membranes,
  • modular both directly and indirectly the inflammatory response and the release of cytokines: EPA and DHA are the precursors of inflammatory mediators such as resolvine, protectin and maresine capable of resolving inflammation as well as reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

I study "Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A Pilot Study"Led by Dr. Arash Asher and collaborators, provided for the collection of blood samples of 100 subjects with confirmed infection by covid-19, hospitalized at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles between April and July 2020. On these samples it is The Omega-3 Index was measured, which is an index representing the sum of EPA and DHA with respect to the total of fatty acids contained in red blood cells.

Although the results are not yet known, the first data obtained show that subjects with a low Omega-3 Index are more at risk of serious complications and therefore death from covid-19 and, on the contrary, those with Omega-3 values. High indexes have a lower risk of dying from covid-19 than 75%.

This pilot study then begins to support the hypothesis that those with the most EPA + DHA in their blood may have less severe forms of COVID-19. At present, a retrospective statistical association link has been demonstrated and further studies are currently underway to evaluate the potential effectiveness of supplementing with EPA + DHA on different aspects of COVID-19 infection.

Although the results are not yet available and we are therefore still looking for a definitive treatment, the assumptions are good that these fatty acids may constitute an evaluable safe and relatively inexpensive prophylactic and therapeutic approach for those considered to be at high risk. Of course, we are very keen to say that no food or nutrient alone is miraculous, but it is the combination of a healthy diet and a correct lifestyle that can help keep us strong and healthy!

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