TOKYO, JAPAN. It is now clear that inflammation of the airways is an important factor in asthma. Thus, it would make sense that supplementation with a natural anti-inflammatory could benefit children with the disease. The two main components of fish oil, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), inhibit the formation of leukotrienes and prostaglandins from arachidonic acid and omega-6 fatty acids and thus reduce the generation of cytokines from inflammatory cells.
Japanese researchers now report that supplementation with fish oil does indeed reduce asthma symptoms in children with long-term bronchial asthma. Their study involved 29 children between the ages of 8 and 14 years who had suffered from asthma for an average of 10 years and were hospitalized for the condition. The children were randomized to receive fish oil capsules or placebo capsules (olive oil) three times daily for a 10-month period. The amount of fish oil given to the children varied from 2.4 grams/day (500 mg EPA + 215 mg DHA) to 4.8 grams/day (1000 mg EPA + 430 mg DHA) depending on body weight. After 10 months of therapy the asthma score (a measure of the severity and frequency of attacks) had dropped from an average of 21 to an average of 6 in the fish oil group with no significant change in the placebo group. The sensitivity to acetylcholine inhalation (a promoter of attacks) also decreased significantly in the fish oil group, but no change was observed in the placebo group.
The researchers conclude that fish oil supplementation for 10 months decreases asthma scores and increases acetylcholine thresholds in children with bronchial asthma. They do add that the conditions of their trial included a strictly controlled environment in terms of diet and the presence of inhalant allergens.
Nagakura, T., et al. Dietary supplementation with fish oil rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in children with bronchial asthma. European Respiratory Journal, Vol. 16, No. 5, November 2000, pp. 861-65