Mussel Extract Beneficial for Asthma Sufferers
Supplementation with an extract of New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) can relieve symptoms and improve lung function in people with asthma, according to a report in the European Respiratory Journal (2002;20:596–600).
In this double-blind study, 46 individuals with asthma who had never been treated with steroids were randomly assigned to receive two capsules of a lipid extract of New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Lyprinol®) twice a day or a placebo for eight weeks. Compared with the placebo group, the group receiving Lyprinol experienced a significant decrease in daytime wheezing and a significant improvement in the ability to move air through the bronchial passages (peak expiratory flow rate). Participants receiving the mussel extract also had fewer nighttime awakenings and required less asthma medication than did participants in the placebo group, although these differences were not statistically significant.
Each capsule of Lyprinol contains a total of 50 mg of various omega-3 fatty acids. Some omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish oil, which has also been reported in some, but not all, studies to be beneficial for asthma sufferers. However, the amount of EPA and DHA needed to relieve asthma is far greater than the amount of omega-3 fatty acids used in the new study. That observation suggests that the beneficial effect of Lyprinol is due primarily to a lesser-known fatty acid, eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), which occurs naturally in the green-lipped mussel.
Asthma is caused in part by inflammation of the airways, and some compounds that have anti-inflammatory activity are effective against asthma. ETA is said to be a more potent anti-inflammatory compound than EPA and DHA, the fatty acids present in cod-liver oil and other fish-oil supplements. In the new study, people receiving the mussel extract had a reduction in the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in their expired breath, indicating a decrease in the severity of airway inflammation.
Because of its anti-inflammatory effect, New Zealand green-lipped mussel extracts have also been used successfully to treat rheumatoid arthritis, although not all studies have found this treatment to be beneficial.
Side effects that have been reported with the use of green-lipped mussel extracts include dyspepsia, gout, skin rashes, and one case of hepatitis. These side effects were reported in the 1980s with other green-lipped mussel products that, conceivably, might have been contaminated with organisms or toxins from the ocean. While no significant side effects were reported with Lyprinol in the new study, additional research is needed to determine the long-term safety of this preparation.
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Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
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