Antinociceptive fatty acid patterns differ in children with psychosomatic recurrent abdominal pain and healthy controls

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Abstract

Aim:

Stress is considered to trigger psychosomatic recurrent abdominal pain (RAP), but the mechanism behind the pain is unclear. Because the essential fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-3, are involved in pain, by regulating lipid mediators, we analysed the fatty acid patterns in children with RAP compared to healthy children.

Methods:

This was a cross-sectional study of plasma phospholipid fatty acids in 22 consecutively included children with RAP, aged six to 16 years, at an outpatient clinic specialising in RAP. The controls were 100 healthy children previously reported on and analysed in the same laboratory.

Results:

The children with psychosomatic RAP showed higher mean concentrations of saturated fatty acids than the controls (49.0 mol% versus 47.4 mol%) but lower mean levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (38.6 mol% versus 39.9 mol%). Omega-3 fatty acids were lower in children with psychosomatic RAP, resulting in higher ratios of linoleic to alpha-linolenic acids (p < 0.001) and arachidonic to eicosapentaenoic acids (p = 0.01), despite a lower concentration of arachidonic acid in children with RAP (p < 0.01).

Conclusion:

The results suggested an imbalance between nociceptive omega-6 fatty acids and antinociceptive omega-3 fatty acids in psychosomatic RAP. Further studies, including lipid mediators and oxidative products, are necessary to confirm an association.

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