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Omega-3 Supplements Don't Help, May Hurt ICU Patients
Date:10/5/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants don't help patients with severe lung problems in the intensive care unit, a new study indicates.

According to the researchers, supplements may actually harm patients with pneumonia or sepsis. Patients given the supplements were on ventilators for more days, stayed in the intensive care unit (ICU) longer and were at a slightly higher risk of dying than their counterparts who didn't get supplements.

"Not only did it not help, but it may be worse," said Dr. Todd W. Rice, lead author of a paper published online Oct. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, to coincide with a presentation at the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine meeting in Berlin.

The trial was stopped early because the results were so disappointing.

"Pharmaconutrition" has attracted increasing interest in recent years.

"The field of nutritional supplementation for critical-care patients is growing. Just like for community-dwelling persons, the hypothesis is that what you eat could affect your outcome when you're seriously ill," said Dr. Deborah J. Cook, author of an editorial accompanying the study and academic chair of critical care medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

The science behind the idea is that nutritional supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish), linolenic acid and antioxidants could quell the inflammation associated with acute lung injuries.

Three earlier, albeit smaller, studies had presented promising data, leading up to the current study, said by the researchers to be the largest undertaken to date.

The trial was supposed to enroll 1,000 patients, but was halted after results came in on only 272 patients.

All patients were in the ICU on ventilators because of lung problems and had been ra
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