Fish oil may help fight asthma

Fish oil may help fight asthma

PTI |   Feb 11,2017 , 04:10 AM IST

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Research pointers

New York : Fish oil and other products with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of antibodies that cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, a new study has claimed. Researchers form University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC) in the US found that for patients with severe asthma who use high doses of oral steroids, the omega-3 fatty acids are less effective because the corticosteroids block the beneficial effects. Richard P Phipps from Rochester and his lab had previously shown that certain fatty acids contained in fish oil regulate the function of immune cells (B cells).

They wanted to further investigate the effects on asthma. People with asthma have an imbalance between molecules that dampen inflammation and those that increase inflammation. Using steroids as treatment controls the inflammation and relieves symptoms, but does not cure the underlying disease. Researchers collected blood from 17 patients and isolated their B immune cells in the laboratory to explore the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on Immunoglobulin E (IgE) - the antibodies that cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in people with milder cases of asthma - and other molecules that fuel the disease.

They compared the results of the 17 patients to donors of healthy blood cells. Most of the patients who volunteered for the study were taking corticosteroids in either pill form or by inhaler, depending upon severity of their asthma. The study showed that all responded to the omega-3 fatty acids to some degree, as evidenced by a reduction in the levels of IgE antibodies. 

However, unexpectedly, Phipps said, the cells from a small subset of patients who were taking oral steroids were less sensitive to the omega-3 treatment. Steroids are usually a very effective treatment for asthma. However, although the science is in the early stages, it appears that when corticosteroids are used steadily, in some cases the steroids reduce some of the body's natural ability to fight asthma-related inflammation, Phipps said. 

Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to have many health benefits. Once ingested, they convert to special pro-resolving mediators that halt inflammation without also suppressing the immune system. They can be found in foods such as flax seed oil, salmon, tuna, anchovies, and walnuts. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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