Abdominal pain is a key symptom of IBS, which, according to several studies, has become more prevalent in Asia in recent years.
Despite further research into the condition and its symptoms, the pathophysiology of IBS remains a mystery.
What is known about it is that women are more likely than men to suffer from IBS, especially when it concerns the constipation-predominant type, and that essential fatty acid (EFA) malnutrition is among the theories that discuss the mechanism of IBS.
Researchers at several Taiwanese universities hypothesised that significant EFA deficiency could induce abdominal pain in IBS patients.
However, due to the different patterns in oral intake of EFAs across different cultures, they designed the current study to focus on the nutritional status of Asian female IBS patients.
They recruited 30 IBS patients and 39 healthy controls, and recorded their height, weight, waist size and age before using the 24-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale on them.
They observed that IBS patients had higher proportions of plasma saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as lower proportions of DHA and total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
"Compared with the controls, our patients with IBS had higher proportions of SFAs and MUFAs and lower DHA and total n-3 in plasma. The relatively low PUFA levels in plasma may have enhanced the endogenous synthesis of SFAs and MUFAs," they wrote.
The IBS patients also exhibited a higher prevalence of depression, an observation in line with previous studies.
Depression and anxiety can raise the risk of developing IBS, as polyunsaturated fatty acids are play a major role in the brain cell membrane's neurotransmission and immunological regulation.
Furthermore, anti-depressive treatment and omega-3 intake has been shown to alleviate depression.
Still, the researchers wrote that "further interventional research must be conducted to test this hypothesis".
They then concluded: "Short-term higher proportions of plasma saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, and lower proportions of DHA and total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in plasma (are among) the unique symptoms of IBS.
"However, the causality of this association needs to be confirmed in further studies."
"Fatty acid components in Asian female patients with irritable bowel syndrome"
Authors: Chian Sem Chua, et al.