Treating COVID-19-Related Olfactory Dysfunction With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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Can persistent COVID-19-associated olfactory dysfunction be effectively treated with high doses of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation?

A trend toward improved olfactory recovery has been reported among patients with COVID-19-related olfactory dysfunction (OD) who are treated with high doses of omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) supplementation at a 6-week follow-up time point. These findings were presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) 2022 Annual Meeting and OTO Experience, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 10 to 14, 2022.

Even though most individuals with COVID-19-associated OD experience substantial recovery, there is considerable population of individuals with persistent OD who seemingly have limited therapeutic options. To assess the efficacy of treatment with high doses of omega-3 fatty acid (O3FA) supplementation, researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical trial among patients with laboratory-confirmed or clinically suspected COVID-19 infection and self-reported, new-onset OD between March 2020 and October 2021.

Patients were prospectively recruited for the current clinical trial if they exhibited evidence of quantitative OD, which was defined as a Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT) score of 9 or less. The study included an experimental group and a control group. Participants in the experimental arm received O3FA 2 g supplementation, which included eicosapentaenoic acid 1366 mg and docosahexaenoic acid 504 mg, whereas those in the control arm received an identical placebo. Each of the treatments was to be taken daily for 6 weeks. The primary study outcome was change in BSIT score from the initial test to a 6-week follow-up BSIT.

A total of 117 participants were included in the study — 57 of whom were in the O3FA group and 60 of whom were in the control group. Prior to study enrollment, the mean duration of OD was 200.1 days, with no significant difference observed between the 2 groups (P =.685).

Patients treated with O3FA supplementation exhibited a mean improvement in BSIT of 1.12±1.99, compared with 0.68±0.86 among those treated with placebo (P =.385). In patients with severe hyposmia, which was defined as a BSIT score of 7 or less, patients in the O3FA arm (n=23) exhibited an improvement in BSIT score of 2.30±0.77 vs 1.63±1.82 among patients with hyposmia in the control arm (n=16; P =.255).

The researchers concluded that “Future work will be needed to better define the effectiveness and durability of O3FA supplementation as a treatment for COVID-19–related OD.”


Lerner D, Garvey KL, Kominsky E, Del Signore A, Govindaraj S, Iloreta AMC Jr. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of COVID-19-related olfactory dysfunction. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022;167(1 suppl):P147.