Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation

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Recent studies suggest that n-3 polyunsaturated (omega-3) fatty acids have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disorders including anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, hypolipemic and vasodilatory effects and contribute to primary and secondary prevention of ischemic heart disease in the general population (Hirafuji et al. 2003; Simopoulos 1999). Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fatty fish and in smaller amounts in flax, soy, canola, olive and wheat germ oils and black walnuts. Studies have also suggested that EPA and DHA supplementation may result in changes in red blood cells (Andersson et al. 2002; Bruckner et al. 1987; Cartwright et al. 1985; Terano et al. 1983) which in turn may improve oxygen delivery to working muscles. Another study has shown that fish oil supplementation may facilitate fat oxidation (Delarue et al. 2003). Supplementation with EPA and DHA may improve VO2 max and aerobic performance.

Table 6: Nutrient Supplementation and Lipid Profile Post SCI


Javierre et al. (2005) assessed the effects on lipid profile and fasting blood glucose in 19 adult males with SCI at 3 and 6 months following daily supplementation of 1.5 grams docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 0.75 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Despite significant increases in the plasma concentration of DHA and EPA, plasma concentrations of glucose, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), and triglycerides did not show differences as the result of n-3 fatty acid supplementation.

In a follow-up study Javierre et al. (2006) determined whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation contributed to improved muscle strength and endurance capacity in persons with SCI. Twenty-one males, 18 with paraplegia and three with tetraplegia, underwent global physical evaluations at baseline, three months and six months of receiving omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Participants continued with their usual diet while taking 1.5 grams per day of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 0.60 grams per day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus 9 mg of alpha tocopherol provided in capsules; two capsules at each of three meals were consumed. No adverse effects were observed during the supplementation period. Increases in the concentrations of plasma DHA and EPA were observed. Body weight of the participants was stable during the study. There was an observed improvement in the functional capacity of the neuromuscular system as shown in enhanced strength and endurance of the upper-body musculature in the tests performed by the subjects.


There is level 4 evidence (from one pre-post study; Javierre et al. 2005) that daily supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (1.5 g) and eicosapentaenoic acid (0.75 g) increases plasma docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid levels but does not alter total cholesterol, very low-, low-, or high-density lipoprotein, triglycerides, or glucose.

There is level 4 evidence (from one pre-post study; Javierre et al. 2006) that docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation increases upper body strength and endurance in persons with SCI.

  • Blood concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid increased as a result of supplementation; however, no significant changes in lipid profile were identified.

    Docosahexaenoic acid  and eicosapentaenoicacid supplementation increases upper body strength and endurance in persons with SCI.