Enteral omega-3 in acute respiratory distress syndrome

Pierre Singer, Haim Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of review The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe illness that is often the cause of death in ICU patients. A safe and effective intervention for this condition is lacking. Fish oil-based enteral nutrition [rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and antioxidants] improved clinical outcomes in a previous trial on ARDS patients but was ineffective, or even harmful in other studies utilizing different fish oil formulae (rich in n-3 PUFAs and arginine) in severely ill ICU patients. Until most recently, consistent evidence that enterai n-3 PUFA is therapeutic in ARDS was lacking. Recent findings In ARDS, an overwhelming inflammatory response damages the endothelial-alveolar units, reducing oxygen diffusion and increasing pulmonary workload, n-3 PUFA targets this inflammatory response. In two recent randomized, controlled studies, the fish oil formula that was previously shown to be effective was administered to patients with ARDS/acute lung injury (in which hypoxia is less severe) and to patients with severe sepsis and hypoxia, respectively, n-3 PUFA feeding improved oxygenation, and a metaanalysis of the three studies demonstrated that enterai fish oil reduces mortality, complications and length of ICU stay. Summary Enteral administration of fish oil, antioxidants and physiologic amounts of arginine improve oxygenation and clinical outcomes in ICU patients with impaired oxygenation. Whether n-3 PUFA per se produces such benefit is the subject of an ongoing clinical study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-128
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Enteral nutrition
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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