The Inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, are debilitating conditions, characterised by lifelong sensitivity to certain foods, and often a need for surgery and life-long medication. The anti-inflammatory effects of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated acids justify their inclusion in enteral nutrition formulas that have been associated with disease remission. However, there have been variable data in clinical trials to test supplementary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in inducing or maintaining remission in these diseases. Although variability in trial design has been suggested as a major factor, we suggest that variability in processing and presentation of the products may be equally or more important. The nature of the source, and rapidity of getting the fish or other food source to processing or to market, will affect the percentage of the various fatty acids, possible presence of heavy metal contaminants and oxidation status of the various fatty acids. For dietary supplements or fortified foods, whether the product is encapsulated or not, whether storage is under nitrogen or not, and length of time between harvest, processing and marketing will again profoundly affect the properties of the final product. Clinical trials to test efficacy of these products in IBD to date have utilised the relevant skills of pharmacology and gastroenterology. We suggest that knowledge from food science, nutrition and engineering will be essential to establish the true role of this important group of compounds in these diseases.
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