Lupus patients who consume more omega-3 fatty acids — which generally act as anti-inflammatories — tend to sleep better and to experience decreased depressive symptoms. That’s according to research presented at the 2017 American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in San Diego.

While omega-3 fatty acids work against inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids, which tend to be more prevalent staples of Western diets, are pro-inflammatories. The latter “are suspected to contribute to chronic diseases,” according to Prae Charoenwoodhipong, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and colleagues.

Prior research had demonstrated an association between omega-3 fatty acids and lower lupus disease activities, but Charoenwoodhipong and colleagues focused on patient-reported outcomes in a population-based, cross-sectional study.

“According to rheumatologists I’ve worked with, patients with SLE [lupus] are always asking about what they might be able to do with supplements or their diet to help improve their health,” Charoenwoodhipong said.

Among 456 lupus patients from the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance (MILES) Program, the researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids helped the patients sleep better and decreased levels of depression. Rheumatologists should recommend daily servings of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Charoenwoodhipong said.

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