Clinical efficacy of n-3 fatty acid supplementation in patients with asthma


      The rising prevalence of asthma is an alarming health concern. The morbidity and mortality associated with asthma not only disrupts the quality of life, but it also escalates health care costs. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory tract. An exaggerated production of the arachidonic acid-derived eicosanoids, leukotrienes, has been implicated as the chemical trigger for inflammation. n-3 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to suppress the synthesis of the n-6 series of leukotrienes by competing and inhibiting the metabolism of arachidonic acid. The results from epidemiological studies suggested that fish consumption was beneficially associated with lung function and prevalence of asthma. The data generated from clinical trials, however, indicated that n-3 fatty acid supplementation did not consistently improve severity of symptoms, lung functions, airway responsiveness, and medication use in asthmatic patients. Future research should focus on the effects of long-term supplementation using weight-based dosages on specific biochemical markers and clinical outcomes. Leading organizations have not included nutrition as part of the management guidelines for asthma. Meanwhile, regular fish consumption at least three times per week should be highly encouraged as part of a well-balanced diet and to meet the adequate intake levels established for n-3 fatty acids.
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      K. W. Wong is a program instructor, dietetic internship, Department of Agriculture and Human Ecology, Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA, USA