York, North Yorkshire, UK—Total Parental Nutrition is a treatment method used on individuals with severely compromised digestive pathways, caused by conditions such as Crohn’s disease or bowel cancer. The treatment is used as a last resort, as it has unwelcoming side effects including inflammation, reduced immune function, reduced glucose sensitivity, and poor gut microflora.
Traditionally, TPN is administered with fish and soybean oil, as a lipid emulsion. These oils provide essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Now, in a study on mice, researchers at the University of Alberta compared Buglossoides arvensis or Ahiflower to fish and soybean oil for TPN.
“The results of our study demonstrate that a novel lipid emulsion based on this oil has remarkable anti-inflammatory, insulin-sensitizing, and immunity-enhancing properties, acting as ‘immunonutrition’ during TPN,” said University of Alberta Professor Michael Zaugg, in a press release from Natures Crops International. “This unique oil could be of particular benefit to vulnerable patients at risk of infection, sepsis patients with ‘immune paralysis’ as well as cancer patients.”
Compared to fish and soybean oil, Ahiflower significantly lowered inflammation and showed improvement in areas of immunity, according to a press release. The animal study also showed an improved insulin sensitivity and gut microflora.
Ahiflower: a sustainable alternative
Ahiflower is commonly found in the UK and is being grown and cultivated as a specialty oilseed crop. Many use it as a sustainable plant-based alternative to fish oil. Iain Hurst, a farmer in Yorkshire, grows Ahiflower and believes it has added value to his crop rotation.
“We started growing Corn Gromwell as a replacement for oilseed rape and have found it to be an excellent break crop that is financially viable in its own right,” said Hurst. “Its lower agrochemical input requirements and smaller carbon footprint fit well with our regenerative approach to farming, particularly at a time of very high fertilizer costs. We like the fact that there does not have to be a trade-off between environmental and financial gain. Ahiflower brings diversity to the rotation and the soil structure enhancing benefits after growing the crop making it an ideal entry for direct drilled wheat. We are unlikely to go back to growing OSR again”
Annually, 20 million tons of small oily fish are “harvested” from the oceans, which are then used for human and pet supplements, according to the release.
Experts weigh in on the benefits of Ahiflower
“The unnecessary production of fish oil from pivotal species such as anchovies, sardines, and menhaden is having a devastating effect on our oceans,” sais Dr. Andy J. Danylchuk, Professor of Fish Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Patagonia Fly Fishing Ambassador, in the release. “These fishes play an essential role in marine food webs and carbon capture. Replacing fish oil with seed oils that offer similar health benefits, are grown regeneratively, and can include value-added products must be embraced. Our oceans and planet depend on it.”
Pauline Cox, MSc, Nutritionist, author and co-founder of Sow and Arrow in the UK, believes Ahiflower can have great benefits, including supporting human health and wellness without damaging the plant. “The development of this new formulation, encompassing sustainably grown Ahiflower, is incredibly exciting. It reflects the optimism in using novel plant-based approaches to improve upon clinically unsatisfactory outcomes in patients reliant on lifesaving TPN,” noted Cox. “Not only does this novel approach mitagate against some of the risks of standard TPN such as diabetes-like conditions and liver toxicity; it may also see benefits in anti-inflammatory effects in insulin sensitive tissues. This research opens a door to further explore ideas for the uses of natural medicine rooted in modern science.”
Omega-3 researcher Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology, Head of Human Development & Health at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, noted, “This is an interesting and exciting development that suggests potential for this new UK-grown plant oil to be part of the strategy for nutrition support of vulnerable groups of patients. It is intriguing that, in this experimental setting, Ahiflower oil performed at least as well as fish oil and sometimes better, given that fish oil is already used in clinical practice.”
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1. Stewart JAD, Mason DG, Smith N, et al. (2010). A Mixed Bag. An enquiry into the care of hospital patients receiving parenteral nutrition. National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD). Accessed online: www.ncepod.org.uk/2010report1/ downloads/PN_report.pdf (July 2015)
2. Lucchinetti E, Novel lipid emulsion for total parenteral nutrition based on 18-carbon n–3 fatty acids elicits a superior immunometabolic phenotype in a murine model compared with standard lipid emulsions, Am J Clin Nutr 2022;0:1–15