Fish Oil Aids Asthmatic Athletes
Fish oil supplementation effectively treats a condition related to asthma called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in highly trained athletes, according to a study in the American Journal of Critical Care Medicine (2003;168:1181–9).
EIB is a condition characterized by a temporary narrowing of the airway passages in the lungs during and after exercise. EIB and asthma can both cause symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. However, unlike typical asthma, EIB does not respond well to medications used to prevent asthma attacks. The cause of EIB is not completely understood, but may be related to the release of substances such as histamine and leukotrienes that cause inflammation in the lungs.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids found in high concentrations in fish oil. When the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the body is disturbed, inflammation can result. Omega-3 fatty acids can help keep inflammation in check by decreasing inflammatory substances that come from the breakdown of omega-6 fatty acids.
The new study investigated the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on measures of lung function and the production of inflammatory substances in ten elite athletes with EIB. The average age of the athletes was 23 years. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either (1) 3.2 grams of EPA and 2.2 grams of DHA from fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) per day, or (2) placebo for three weeks. After a two-week period without treatment (washout period), the two groups switched treatments and remained on the new treatment for another three weeks.
All participants took part in an exercise-challenge test at the beginning of the study and at the end of each treatment period. The challenge consisted of running on a treadmill until exhaustion. Lung function was measured before, during, and after the exercise challenge. Blood and urine samples were taken before and after the exercise challenge to test for the presence of inflammatory substances in the body.
Lung function was significantly better, and levels of inflammatory markers in the blood and urine were lower during treatment with omega-3 fatty acids than during placebo treatment.
The results of this study demonstrate that supplementation with fatty acids from fish oil reduces the severity of EIB in elite athletes. Fish oil should therefore be considered as part of the overall treatment of this condition.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.