Fish oil fights asthma: two new studies

Asthma is a bronchial disease that hits younger Canadians hard, affecting 13% of all children aged 5 to 19. Though asthma has no cure, its symptoms—wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath—can be managed with medication and nutrition. According to many recent studies, children with asthma may benefit from essential fatty acids. Studies have shown that the body uses the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to produce anti-inflammatory compounds. Furthermore, research confirms that a diet rich in fish oils, a prime source of DHA, helps decrease risk of inflammatory diseases in general.

At Jikei University School of Medicine in Japan, 29 children with asthma were given fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids for 10 months. The study was performed in a long-term treatment hospital, minimizing outside pollutants that might have interfered with results. At the end of the study, children in the fish oil group showed less asthma symptoms and higher blood levels of omega-3s than children in the control group.

The link between controlling asthma symptoms and fish oils was also observed in a study in Italy. There, dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was tested on seven patients with seasonal allergies resulting in breathing problems. After 30 days of supplementation, all seven patients showed improved breathing capacity. To confirm their results, the researchers tested the seven participants another 30 days after treatment stopped and found the breathing difficulties had returned to pre-test status for all seven.

Sources: Eur Respir J 2000 Nov;16(5):861-5; Respiration 1998;65(4):265-9; Leslie Beck’s Nutrition Encyclopedia by L Beck, Prentice Hall:2001