Fish Oil for Treating Patients with Asthma?


The results showed all participants responded to omega-3 fatty acids to some degree, with a reduction in IgE production.

Omega-3 fatty acids demonstrate numerous health benefits, and now, show promise in the treatment of asthma.

Prior studies show that certain fatty acids in fish oil help regulate B cell function. In the current study published in JCI Insight, the investigators sought to examine these effects on asthma.

The investigators collected blood from 17 patients at the UR Medicine’s Mary Parkes Asthma Center, and isolated their B immune cells to examine the impact of pure omega-3-derived products on IgE antibodies. IgEs are the cause of asthma symptoms and allergic reactions in patients with milder forms of asthma. The results were then compared with donors of healthy blood cells.

A majority of participants were taking corticosteroids by an inhaler or in pill form, depending on asthma severity, according to the study. The results showed all participants responded to omega-3 fatty acids to some degree, with a reduction in IgE production. However, in patients with severe asthma who used high doses of oral steroids, the omega-3 fatty acids were found to be less effective due to the corticosteroids, which block the beneficial effects of the acid.

These findings correlate with a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that showed prenatal exposure to fish oil reduced the risk of wheeze and asthma in children.

The authors warned that the fish oil used in the NEJM study was of a special high-quality preparation, and that consumers should use caution when buying fish oil. “You really need high-quality, standardized material that’s been processed and store correctly before comparing results from one study to another study,” said lead author Richard P. Phipps, PhD. “Our study used the pure biologically active products in fish oil, known as 17-HDHA, and we’ve provided a clear line of evidence of why intake of high-quality fish oil is good.”


  • Nina Kim, Thomas H. Thatcher, Patricia J. Sime, Richard P. Phipps. Corticosteroids inhibit anti-IgE activities of specialized proresolving mediators on B cells from asthma patients. JCI Insight, 2017; 2 (3) doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.88588.

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