Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Asthma: Why Do Outcomes Vary?

Researchers isolated B immune cells to explore the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on lgE molecules
Researchers isolated B immune cells to explore the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on lgE molecules

Omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil was shown to have a lowering effect on lgE production (the antibodies which fuel asthma), suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may be utilized to treat asthma patients. The findings come from new research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation--Insight. 

Researchers from the University of Rochester (UR) Medical Center collected blood from 17 patients at the Mary Parkes Asthma Center and isolated their B immune cells in the laboratory to explore the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on lgE and other molecules that fuel the disease. Most of the patients were taking corticosteroids in either pill or inhaler form. 

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The results showed a reduction in lgE antibody levels, to varying degrees, in all patients with the introduction of omega-3 fatty acids. The cell cultures from patients taking oral steroids had less of a response to the omega-3 treatment. Steroids are used to control inflammation but do not treat the underlying disease. The authors hypothesize that consistent steroid use may in fact hinder the body's natural defense to fight asthma-related inflammation.

Recent studies have added weight to the association between fish oil and benefits in asthma, wheezing. However, the lead author of the UR study, Richard P. Phipps, PhD, and Wright Family Research Professor of Environmental Medicine, stressed how the fish oil used in the study is of high-quality and any differences in oil standard should be noted when comparing separate studies. "Our study used the pure, biologically active products in fish oil, known as 17-HDHA, and we've provided a clear line of evidence for why intake of high-quality fish oil is good,” he said. 

For more information visit urmc.rochester.edu.

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