ASTHMA

Study: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Inflammation in Patients with Asthma

February 10, 2017

A recent study found that high quality omega-3 fatty acids (17-HDHA) may decrease the inflammatory immune system response related to allergic asthma, and might be an effective alternative to corticosteroids for patients with mild asthma.

“While corticosteroids can be effective at suppressing chronic inflammation, systemic or [oral corticosteroids] also have deleterious side effects, including weight gain, osteoporosis, and growth retardation in children,” the researchers wrote.
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Specialized proresolving mediators, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown in animal models to reduce inflammation in chronic inflammatory diseases.

To investigate their effects in patients with asthma, researchers collected blood samples from 17 patients with asthma taking inhaled corticosteroids, with β2-agonists as needed; 3 of the 17 participants were taking high dosages of oral corticosteroids. Blood samples from healthy donors were also collected.

Researchers isolated peripheral blood B cells and treated them with either 17-HDHA or resolvin D1 (RvD1) using cells from at least 3 participants to test that effects of omega-3 fatty acids on immunoglobulin E (IgE) production in B cells. In one experiment, researchers tested the effects of corticosteroids on the ability of 17-HDHA to reduce inflammation.

Their findings showed that 17-HDHA and RvD1 reduced the level of IgE antibodies in blood samples, indicating a reduction in the antibodies that cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms.

However, the results were not found in samples from participants on high doses of oral corticosteroids as researchers discovered that the steroids blocked the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids in participants with severe asthma. 

“Our results suggest that [specialized proresolving mediators] are important potential therapeutics for most patients with allergic asthma. Further, our results highlight that immunosuppressive therapies like [oral corticosteroids] also suppress endogenous resolution pathways and suggest one method by which [oral corticosteroids] may actually exacerbate allergic diseases,” the researchers concluded.

—Melissa Weiss

Reference:

Kim N, Thatcher TH, Sime PJ, Phipps RP. Corticosteroids inhibit anti-IgE activities of specialized proresolving mediators on B cells from asthma patients [published online February 9, 2017]. JCI Insight. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.88588.