Higher omega-3 index linked to better asthma control: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Tom Merton
© Getty Images / Tom Merton

Related tags omega-3 Omega-3 index Asthma

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with better asthma control and lower medication doses, suggests a new study.

Scientists from the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle in Australia reported that higher omega-3 (n-3 PUFA) levels may play a role in asthma management.

“n-3 PUFA may be clinically relevant for an obese asthma population as our findings show lower ICS [inhaled corticosteroid] dose and CRP [C-reactive protein – an inflammatory biomarker] in this population with a higher O3I [Omega-3 Index],” ​they wrote in the journal Nutrients​.

“Our findings suggest that achieving an O3I ≥ 8% may be an appropriate target for therapeutic benefit in both an asthma and an older population.

The need for intervention data

The study only shows correlation and not causation, however, and the researchers called for intervention studies to confirm their findings and hypothesis.

Commenting independently on the study’s findings, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), added to this point. “While results from this cross-sectional study suggest a benefit of omega-3s (EPA/DHA) for asthma control, nothing further can be said without conducting a well-controlled intervention study that includes baseline omega-3 levels in all subjects,” ​said Dr Rice.

“Despite the current study not showing a difference in the omega-3 index between asthmatics and non-asthmatics, an intervention trial may very well demonstrate a benefit of omega-3 supplementation in asthmatics who have low baseline omega-3 levels.”  

Study details

The new study measured the omega-3 index in 255 people with asthma and 137 people without asthma. The researchers did measure lung function and calculated the Juniper Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) score.

Omega-3 Fish oil © Getty Images areeya_ann
The researchers called for intervention studies with omega-3 supplements to confirm their findings and hypothesis. Image © Getty Images / areeya_ann

While the omega-3 index was similar in subjects with and without asthma, when the researchers looked specifically at the asthmatics they found a higher index in asthmatics with controlled or partially controlled asthma, compared with subjects with uncontrolled asthma.

In addition, asthmatics with an omega-3 index level greater than or equal to 8% needed a lower maintenance dose of inhaled corticosteroids, compared to those with an index level lower than 8%.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study reporting that a lower omega-3 index is associated with poorer asthma control in adults with asthma,” ​wrote the researchers. “Additionally, a higher O3I was associated with a lower maintenance ICS dose. Interestingly, this was most significant in the subjects who were also obese, showing a similar dose range of maintenance ICS to nonobese subjects with asthma.

“Considering the high medication burden and reduced quality of life in people with asthma, our study suggests that higher levels of n-3 PUFA could be utilized as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of asthma.”

Source: Nutrients
2020, 12(1), 74; doi: 10.3390/nu12010074
“Higher Omega-3 Index Is Associated with Better Asthma Control and Lower Medication Dose: A Cross-Sectional Study”
Authors: I. Stoodley et al.

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