Asthma patients benefit from increased omega-3
- intake that also reduces their need for medicine
An estimated 334 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, which is associated with chronic inflammation. Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the disease and improve therapies by reducing inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Also, omega-3 reduces the need for corticosteroids and other types of asthma medicine. In fact, the diet plays a vital role in the development of asthma, and overweight individuals seem to benefit particularly much from an increased omega-3 intake, according to a study that is published in Nutrients. But how much omega-3 does it take to inhibit inflammation, and why are oily fish and fish oil supplements better sources?
The immune system is designed to launch inflammatory processes in order to destroy microorganisms, toxins, and abnormal cells. However, it is vital that the immune defense retreats once it has completed its mission. Otherwise, it will overreact and cause chronic inflammation.
Asthma, which is characterized by chronic inflammation in the airways, can be triggered by airborne allergens and virus infections. When the immune defense overreacts, the body produces too much histamine that causes constriction of the bronchial smooth muscle. This makes breathing difficult. The inflammatory processes also cause an overproduction of mucous and a constant need to cough to get rid of it. This leads to problems such as fatigue, which is made worse by poor sleep
Studies show that asthma patients have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which are linked to the inflammation in the respiratory tract and the impaired function of the airways. The current treatment for asthma is based on inhalation of corticosteroids, which reduces inflammation in the airways and the complications that go with it. This form of therapy, however, does not address the actual cause and there is also the risk of side effects.
Diet plays a vital role in asthma
Scientist are much more aware of the importance of diets in terms of prevention and therapy. It appears that a typical Western diet with too much sugar and empty calories and too much omega-6 from margarine, plant oils and junk-food increases the risk of asthma. On the other hand, a Mediterranean diet with lost of fish, vegetables, and olive oil (omega-9) seems to be able to reduce the prevalence of asthma and the severity of its symptoms. There is also the fact that there is more sunshine in the Mediterranean area, which means people have more vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties.
Weight is also very important
Overweight increases the risk of asthma, which is because many people with weight problems suffer from insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or type 2 diabetes, and the elevated insulin levels increase the risk of inflammation. Studies have also demonstrated a link between being overweight and having more severe asthma symptoms, having trouble with managing the disease, and needing more medicine to control symptoms compared with asthma patients of normal weight.
Oily fish and fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory properties
Our cell membranes contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both fatty acids work together biochemically to enable a host of different functions. It is vital to consume omega-3 and omega-6 in the right balance. If we get too much omega-6 and/or too little omega-3 it sets the stage for inflammation and other types of imbalance.
Science has its eyes set on the fact that Mediterranean diets contain quite a lot of fish such as sardines, anchovies, and salmon. These oily fish contain rich amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA. It turns out that these two essential fatty acids inhibit the inflammatory processes in the airways and in other tissues. More precisely, omega-3 fatty acids suppress the production of C-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a)
Researchers: More omega-3 needed for preventing and treating asthma
The participants in the new Australian study were non-smoking adults from 18 years of age and older, some with and some without asthma. All examinations were carried out at Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle, Australia. The asthma patients’ clinical asthma pattern was determined in correspondence with international guidelines (GINA). All study participants had their BMI measured and blood tests were taken. The blood tests showed levels of omega-3 and omega-6 in the red blood cells. The levels of various inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), cytokines (Il-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) were measured in serum.
According to the researchers, this study is the first to report that a lower omega-3 index is associated with poorer asthma control. At the same time, higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to lower medicine consumption. This was particularly significant among overweight participants. Because asthma affects millions of people and impairs their quality of life and increases the need for medicine with potential side effects, the scientists now recommend an increased omega-3 intake as a way of improving the outcome of asthma therapies. They also refer to other diet studies, where it has been seen that increasing your omega-3 intake from diet or supplements helps prevent and relieve asthma symptoms in children and adults. It takes around 800 mg of EPA and DHA daily or four to five weekly fish meals to obtain positive results. The study is published in Nutrients.
Oily fish and fish oil supplements
The official diet guidelines recommend that we eat at least 350 grams of fish weekly, of which 200 grams should be oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and anchovies. Farmed fish do not contain optimal amounts of omega-3 because of the industrial fodder they get. Therefore, it is advisable to choose free range salmon and herring and anchovies from pure waters. People suffering from asthma and chronic inflammation may have increased need for omega-3.
If you dislike the taste of fish or simply don’t eat enough fish, a supplement is useful. Fish oil supplements based on free fatty acids have good bioavailability. Make sure to choose a supplement that complies with the health authorities’ requirements with regard to peroxide value and environmental toxins.
Isobel Stoodley et al. Higher omega-3 Index Is Associated with better Asthma Control and Lower Medication Dose: A Cross-sectional Study. Nutrients 2020
Emily P Brigham et al. Omega-3 and Omega-6 intake Modifies Asthma Severity and Response to Indoor American Journal of respiratory and Clinical Care Medicine. 2019
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