(Natural News) Could fish oil really help treat asthma? New research has indicated that may just be the case. Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center have reportedly made a shocking discovery about omega-3 fatty acids, and what purpose they may be able to serve for asthma patients.
Their research, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation—Insight, utilized cell cultures from local asthma patients to produce the amazing findings. They found that omega-3 fatty acids could help reduce the production of IgE — which stands for immunoglobulin E.
What is IgE, and why is it important for asthma patients?
IgE is a type of antibody that is produced by the body when it is exposed to potential allergens. Triggers such as dust, pet dander and other substances may prompt the production of IgE. Increased levels of IgE may cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.
IgE can also bind to different cells, such as mast cells, lymphocytes and basophils. When it binds to these cells, it stimulates an immune system response, which can, in turn, make asthma symptoms worse and cause your airways to narrow and grow inflamed.
In other words, IgE plays a significant role in the onset of the symptoms of asthma, though it is worth noting that elevated IgE levels are not solely related to asthma. Elevated IgE can increase your risk of other allergy-related issues besides asthma, as well.
Can omega-3 fatty acids really help?
Richard P. Phipps, Ph.D., and lead author of the study from the University of Rochester, and his lab had found in previous studies that the fatty acids found in fish could help regulate the function of certain immune cells known as “B cells.” Their past research inspired them to examine what effects fatty acids may have on asthma.
Seventeen asthmatic patients from UR Medicine’s Mary Parkes Asthma Center gave blood samples for testing. The scientists isolated their B cells in the lab so they could explore the effects omega-3 fatty acids had on IgE and other molecules that contribute to asthma.
Phipps’s co-authors Nina Kim, Ph.D., and Patricia Sime, M.D. and the C. Jane and C. Robert Distinguished Chair in Pulmonary Medicine, managed quite a bit of the laboratory and clinical work. Kim and Sime also compared the results of the 17 asthma patients to donors of healthy blood cells.
Many of the asthmatic study participants were taking some kind of corticosteroid, either in pill form or by inhaler. The team found that high levels of corticosteroid use diminished the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids. While the results showed that all of the participants’ cells responded to the omega-3 fatty acids to a degree, which is seen in the reduction in the levels of IgE antibodies, what medication was being taken seemed to impact this benefit. Phipps noted that the cells from a small group of patients who were taking oral steroids appeared to be less sensitive to the omega-3 treatment.
While steroids are generally considered an effective treatment for asthma, they really only treat the symptoms and do not eliminate the actual cause of asthma. Phipps says that research is now beginning to show that consistent steroid use may also reduce the body’s ability to fight off asthma-related inflammation on its own. This could mean that an alternative medicine may be necessary for the future.
Previous research has hinted at the benefits fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids may provide asthma sufferers. In December 2016, research published by scientists from the University of Waterloo found that taking fish oil supplements while pregnant could reduce the infant’s risk of childhood asthma by up to one-third. It seems that what you put into your body really is just that important.
Other studies have also indicated that fatty acid supplementation may be helpful in the treatment of asthma. A 2004 review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded, “These findings are provocative and suggest that dietary omega-3 PUFA supplementation may be a viable treatment modality and/or adjunct therapy in airway hyperresponsiveness.”