Fish oil may help relieve asthma symptoms in adults

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University of Rochester Medical Center scientists have studied omega 3 fatty acids contained in fish oil and found that they can regulate the function of immune cells (B cells).

To further investigate the affects of fish oil on asthma patients, the researchers collected blood from 17 people and isolated their B immune cells in the laboratory to explore the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on IgE antibodies and other molecules that fuel the respiratory disease.

Many of the patients who volunteered for the study were taking anti-inflammatory corticosteroids in either pill form or by inhaler, depending upon the severity of their asthma.

“Results showed that all responded to the omega-3 fatty acids to some degree, as evidenced by a reduction in the levels of IgE antibodies,” the researchers said in a statement.

But unexpectedly, lead author Dr. Richard P. Phipps said that the cells from a small subset of patients who were taking oral steroids were less sensitive to the omega-3 treatment.

He added that the fish oil used as a dietary supplement in the study was a special high-quality preparation and that consumers should use caution when buying fish oil.

"You really need high-quality, standardised material that's been processed and stored correctly before comparing results from one study to another study," Dr. Phipps said. "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."

Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been linked to many health benefits. After being ingested, they transform into special pro-resolving mediators that stop inflammation without suppressing the immune system too. They can be found in foods such as flax seed oil, salmon, tuna, anchovies and walnuts.

The full study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation - Insight.

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