Sioux Falls, SD—A pilot studyposted in medRxivexamined a possible link between low Omega-3 Index (O3I) levels and risk of death from COVID-19.

Researchers at the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and in Orange County, CA obtained COVID outcomes for 100 patients for whom admission blood samples had been stored. They grouped patients into four quartiles according to their O3I. Those with an O3I over 5.7% were in the top quartile, in which one person died; in the three quartiles wherein patients had an O3I below 5.7%, 13 patients died.

After adjusting for age and sex, those in the highest quartile were 75% less likely to die than those in the lower three quartiles. In other words, risk for death was about four times higher in those with a lower O3I than in those with an O3I above 5.7%.

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James H. O’Keefe, Jr., M.D.—not affiliated with the study—explained in a press release from FARI: “An excessive inflammatory response, referred to as a ‘cytokine storm,’ is a fundamental mediator of severe COVID-19 illness. Omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory activities, and this pilot study provides suggestive evidence that these fatty acids may dampen COVID-19’s cytokine storm.”

Arash Asher, M.D., lead author on the study, says that these results are promising. “While not meeting standard statistical significance thresholds, this pilot study—along with multiple lines of evidence regarding the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA—strongly suggests that these nutritionally available marine fatty acids may help reduce risk for adverse outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Larger studies are clearly needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”

The research team is seeking funding to expand upon these preliminary findings. Those interested in supporting the research can visit FARI’sdonations page.