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Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against COVID-19, a new study shows. People with higher levels of omega-3s in their red blood cells were less likely to contract COVID-19 or require hospitalization if infected.

Researchers calculated the concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 derived from fatty fish, in the blood of more than 110,000 people enrolled in the UK Biobank study. They also calculated the participants' Omega-3 Index – a measure of total omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in red blood cells. They reviewed the participants' medical records to determine if they had ever contracted COVID-19 and, if so, the severity and outcome of their disease.

They found that people with the highest Omega-3 Indices (8 percent) were less likely to contract COVID-19 or have a severe outcome than those with the lowest Indices (3.5 percent). Those with the highest DHA levels were 21 percent less likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 26 percent less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 infection.

In silico (computer modeling) experiments demonstrate that one of the mechanisms driving omega-3s' protective effects in the setting of COVID-19 may be related to their capacity to prevent the spike protein, the primary antigenic component of SARS-CoV-2, from binding to cellular receptors that allow the virus to enter cells. Other evidence points to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s, which may reduce host inflammatory response and disease severity.

These findings suggest that omega-3s confer protection against COVID-19. Listen to former FMF guest and omega-3 expert Dr. Bill Harris elaborate on this study.

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