An abnormal plasma polyunsaturated fatty acid pattern (PUFA) (increased n3 and decreased n6 PUFA) has been reported in active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The possibility of a primary defect in the PUFA metabolism in IBD was hypothesised. The aim of this study was to assess plasma PUFA pattern in inactive inflammatory bowel disease and to ascertain whether patients who had had a colectomy and who were suffering from ulcerative colitis have a similar PUFA pattern than those patients with non-active ulcerative colitis and who had not had a colectomy. Plasma fatty acids were analysed by semi-capillary column gas-liquid chromatography in three groups of patients with inactive IBD (24 patients with inactive ulcerative colitis who had not had a colectomy, 15 patients with ulcerative colitis who had had a colectomy, and 27 patients with Crohn's disease). Plasma concentration and percentage of C22:6n3 and unsaturation index were significantly higher in patients with inactive ulcerative colitis without a colectomy and the Crohn's disease group (p < 0.0001) than in controls. Plasma concentration and percentage of C22:6n3 and the unsaturation index remained significantly higher, in both the operated and non-operated ulcerative colitis patients when compared with controls (p < 0.0001). These results suggest that in inactive IBD, an increased PUFA biosynthesis might be the cause of the high values of n3 compounds. These findings although seen in active disease, are more noticeable in remission because of the lack of artefactual factors (malnutrition, steroids, inflammation). In addition, persistence of high values in both groups of ulcerative colitis patients--that is, those who had had a colectomy and those who had not suggests the existence of a primary abnormality in the PUFA metabolism in IBD.
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