LARAMIE, WYOMING. Asthma is an increasingly common affliction in the Western world. It is estimated that between 20 and 25 per cent of all children suffer from one or more symptoms of asthma at some point. There is evidence that a high dietary intake of linoleic acid (n-6 PUFA) may exacerbate asthma symptoms. Linoleic acid is found in particularly high concentrations in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, and corn oils. Researchers at the University of Wyoming now report that adjusting the dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including those found in fish oils, may be effective in reducing asthma symptoms in many patients.
Their experiment involved 26 non-smoking asthma-sufferers aged 19 to 25 years. The normal dietary intake of n-6 PUFA was determined for all participants at the start of the study and after one month. For the first month participants were given fish oil capsules containing enough EPA and DHA to adjust their intake ratio of n-3 PUFAs (fish oils) to n-6 PUFAs to 0.1:1. During the second month the participants had their n-3 PUFA to n-6 PUFA ratio adjusted to 0.5:1. The average fish oil intake required to produce the 0.5:1 ratio was 3.3 grams per day. Extensive testing showed that more than 40 per cent of the participants experienced a significant improvement in their breathing ability and better resistance to asthma attacks while on the high fish oil diet. The researchers conclude that dietary supplementation with fish oils or other enriched sources of n-3 PUFAs may be a viable therapy for asthma.
Broughton, K. Shane, et al. Reduced asthma symptoms with n-3 fatty acid ingestion are related to 5- series leukotriene production. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 65, April 1997, pp. 1011- 17