Consuming fish oil capsules – containing large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids
and antioxidants – is recommended by experts to help lower blood pressure,
reduce inflammation in the skin and joints, promote healthy fetal development
and even relieve “the blues.”
Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has
found that it also has a positive effect on pressure ulcers – known to the
layman as bedsores.
The research was recently reported in the British
Journal of Nutrition and the American Journal of Critical Care.
sores are a common problem in critically ill patients who constantly lie down or
sit, putting pressure on the skin and the tissue underneath. As such patients
often have poor blood circulation, the bedsores that develop are painful and
easily get infected. But while everything from hyperbaric oxygen treatment and
injections have been used, they are not easily healed.
treated, they can lead to gangrene, amputation and even death.
Pierre Singer of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and doctoral candidate Miriam
Theilla of the Rabin Medical Center designed a randomized experiment to
determine the effect of dietary fish oil supplements on the bedsores of
critically ill patients.
After three weeks of adding eight grams of fish
oil to their patients’ daily diet, the researchers found a significant reduction
of pain and discomfort from bedsores – a 20 percent to 25% improvement –
according to the Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing.
In addition, the fish
oil brought about a more efficient immune system and reduced inflammation
throughout the body.
Inspired by the results of a previous study showing
that dietary fish oil supplements for critically ill patients raised oxygen
levels in body tissues, Singer and his team wanted to know whether the
supplement could also help heal bedsores, which are also formed by a lack of
oxygen, reduced blood flow and wet skin.
To test this theory, the
researchers conducted a randomized study with 40 critically ill patients. Half
were put on standard hospital diets, while the rest had a daily addition of
eight grams of fish oil added to their food.
After a three-week period,
the patients in the fish-oil group had an average of 20% to 25% improvement in
the healing of their bedsores compared to the control group.
were the bedsore smaller, but the researchers also found that the patients in
the fish-oil group had a boosted immune system and less swelling.
a modification in the expression of a group of molecules associated with
directing leukocytes, or white blood cells, in the direction of the wound, which
could explain the improved healing,” explained Singer. In addition, researchers
noted a significant decrease in the amount of C-reactive protein in the blood,
which is associated with inflammation and linked to viral and bacterial
infections, rheumatic diseases, tissue injury and necrosis.
The team now
plan to explore the use of fish oil as a method of natural pain
By measuring the intensity of pain experience in
post-surgical patients who have undergone either knee or hip replacements and
comparing it to the amount of fish oil the patient has received, they hope to
find out whether the nutrient-rich oil can also reduce their patients’