One small study, involving only 78 patients, was published previously in the New England Journal of Medicine and found a 33 percent reduction in the risk of relapse in Crohn's patients taking omega-3 free fatty acids daily. Another trial, however, found no effect.
Perhaps based on the promising results of the New England Journal trial, many people with Crohn's disease began taking omega-3 free fatty acids in the hopes of preventing a relapse.
But do the supplements really work? To test that out, Feagan and his colleagues conducted two similar trials.
For the first trial, known as EPIC-1 (Epanova Program in Crohn's Study), 363 patients in remission with Crohn's disease were randomly assigned to receive either four grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo.
The second trial, EPIC-2, involved 375 patients who were also taking either the drugs prednisone or budesonide for their Crohn's.
Participants in the treatment arm of the trials took the supplements for up to 58 weeks.
The result: Rates of relapse (as measured by a Crohn's Disease Activity Index) scores were roughly the same in all groups, the researchers found.
There is some evidence that omega-3 free fatty acids are helpful in reducing the risk for heart disease. "It's attractive in that there's no evidence that omega-3 free fatty acids are harmful," Feagan said.
But according to the researchers, the message for Crohn's sufferers is clear: other, proven medications are a better bet for preventing relapse.
There's more on Crohn's disease at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
SOURCES: Brian G. Feagan, M.D., professor, medicine, and director of Robarts Clinical Trials at Robarts Research Institute, Univer
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