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Fish Oils Can Help Fight Asthma

Asthma can be an aggravating and frightening chronic medical condition for the people who suffer from it. Approximately 12-15 million Americans are affected by asthma. Inflammation of the bronchial tubes is thought to be one of the factors that contribute to the long-term damage that asthma causes to the lungs. Therefore, controlling inflammation could be a key to treating asthma.

With this in mind, a recent study sought to examine the affect supplementing with fish oil would have in asthmatic patients with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). EIB results in the narrowing of the airways that can occur during or following exercise, resulting in a post exercise decrease in lung function.

The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) naturally occur in fish oil. EPA and DHA help inhibit proinflammatory responses. Researchers noted that a possible contributing factor to the increased prevalence of asthma in Western countries might be due to the consumption of a proinflammatory diet, low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Citing mounting evidence that dietary modifications have been shown to have the potential to reduce the prevalence and incidence of asthma and EIB; researchers hypothesized that fish oil supplementation would: lessen airway inflammation, severity of EIB, medication usage and improve post exercise pulmonary function in asthmatic subjects. Researchers recruited 16 subjects who had been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma. Subjects were given either soft gel capsules equaling 3.2 grams of EPA and 2.0 grams of DHA or an identical placebo capsule containing olive oil for three weeks. Thereafter, they followed a 2 week washout period and then switched to an alternative diet for the remaining 3 weeks.

Researchers noted that bronchodilator use was significantly reduced during the last 2 weeks of the fish oil diet compared to the normal diet. Researchers felt this study demonstrated "that a diet supplemented with fish oil ameliorates the severity of exercise-induced airway narrowing in subjects with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma" and that it has been shown "for the first time that a diet supplemented with fish oil reduces airway inflammation in asthmatic subjects with EIB".

The researchers concluded, "this study has shown that fish oil supplementation may represent a potentially beneficial non-pharmacologic intervention in asthmatic patients with EIB. The fish oil diet reduced airway inflammation and the severity of EIB with a concomitant decrease in bronchodilator use."

Mickleborough, et al "Protective Effect of Fish Oil Supplementation on Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction in Asthma", Chest; January 2006; 129(1):39-49.

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