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Taking aspirin plus fish oil?
Consider this

A study in the Journal of Lipid Research recently focused on using natural compounds to combat inflammation. Researchers at the University of Western Australia showed that fish oil supplementation in healthy adults increased factors that help mitigate inflammation. What’s more, their results also indicated that aspirin may not have any additional benefits when it is taken with fish oil.

Our immune system is a highly complex network of biological processes that initiates rapid, protective responses upon injury or infection. Inflammation is a part of this immune response, triggered by factors such as histamines and prostaglandins that are released into the extracellular milieu while macrophages neutralize pathogens and injured tissues are restored. We recognize inflammation as pain, redness and swelling. However, inflammation must be controlled and cleared in a timely fashion for normal health. In fact, prolonged and excessive inflammation can lead to several problems, such as arthritis, periodontal disease and atherosclerosis.

After damage is contained, small molecules called mediators help resolve inflammation. Of these mediators, specialized pro-resolving mediators, or SPMs, are dual-acting anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution molecules that are synthesized locally at the site of infection itself, so that the resolution can be fast and doesn’t accidentally affect healthy tissues. SPMs stimulate removal of dead cells and microbes from the inflamed site. Clinicians manage inflammation with natural and synthetic compounds that act on SPMs and regulate their concentration.

The study in the JLR by lead author Anne Barden and colleagues focused on SPM derived from eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, two essential n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids known as EPA and DHA for short. Metabolism of EPA and DHA by lipoxygenases and acetylated COX-2 produces SPM. In a double-blind, controlled trial, the researchers gave human subjects fish oil capsules for n-3 fatty acid supplementation in conjunction with either aspirin or a placebo.

Aspirin is a nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drug that acetylates COX-2. In 2010 alone, an estimated 43 million adults in the United States used aspirin regularly. Despite their popularity, NSAIDs have been associated with gastrointestinal bleeding and renal problems. Therefore, having a natural alternative to NSAIDs for managing inflammation could be beneficial.

Using mass spectrometry to measure levels of SPM in plasma, the authors demonstrated that fish oil increases SPM in as few as five days in healthy humans. However, aspirin did not show synergistic benefits when taken with the supplements. This presents an interesting outcome: A natural compound increases SPM enough that aspirin is not needed. But this is the case for healthy individuals. To establish the benefits of n-3 fatty acid supplements over aspirin, researchers must examine the dose, duration and side effects of these agents in both healthy individuals and those with chronic inflammation.

The anti-inflammatory benefits of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from marine oils long have been accepted. Now, with this study, researchers can begin to understand the mechanism by which they counteract inflammation and perhaps piece together an improved approach for dealing with inflammation.

Aditi Dubey Aditi Dubey (dubeyad@
scarletmail.rutgers.edu) is is a graduate student studying the mechanism of selenocysteine incorporation at Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.