Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have anticolorectal cancer (CRC) activity. The intestinal microbiota has been implicated in colorectal carcinogenesis. Dietary omega-3 PUFAs alter the mouse intestinal microbiome compatible with antineoplastic activity. Therefore, we investigated the effect of omega-3 PUFA supplements on the faecal microbiome in middle-aged, healthy volunteers (n=22).
A randomised, open-label, cross-over trial of 8 weeks' treatment with 4 g mixed eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid in two formulations (soft-gel capsules and Smartfish drinks), separated by a 12-week 'washout' period. Faecal samples were collected at five time-points for microbiome analysis by 16S ribosomal RNA PCR and Illumina MiSeq sequencing. Red blood cell (RBC) fatty acid analysis was performed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.
Both omega-3 PUFA formulations induced similar changes in RBC fatty acid content, except that drinks were associated with a larger, and more prolonged, decrease in omega-6 PUFA arachidonic acid than the capsule intervention (p=0.02). There were no significant changes in α or β diversity, or phyla composition, associated with omega-3 PUFA supplementation. However, a reversible increased abundance of several genera, including Bifidobacterium, Roseburia and Lactobacillus was observed with one or both omega-3 PUFA interventions. Microbiome changes did not correlate with RBC omega-3 PUFA incorporation or development of omega-3 PUFA-induced diarrhoea. There were no treatment order effects.
Omega-3 PUFA supplementation induces a reversible increase in several short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria, independently of the method of administration. There is no simple relationship between the intestinal microbiome and systemic omega-3 PUFA exposure.