Omega-3 EPA triumphs over in DHA for anti-asthma potential: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fish oil, Inflammation, Omega-3 fatty acid, Epa

The omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a more potent inflammation inhibitor than DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), says a new Anglo-American study.

Writing in the journal Clinical Nutrition​, scientists from Indiana University (US) and Loughborough University (UK) report that EPA and EPA-rich media reduced markers of inflammation more that DHA and DHA-rich media when tested in cells obtained from asthmatic patients.

“The present study has shown for the first time that EPA is a more potent inhibitor than DHA of inflammatory responses in human asthmatic … cells,”​ wrote lead author Timothy Mickleborough.

“The clinical relevance of the present study, along with previous work from our group, suggest that EPA-rich fish oil may provide a therapeutic option for adults with asthma. In view of the clinical consequences, these findings point towards prophylactic and acute therapeutic effects of fish oil supplementation in inflammatory diseases such as asthma.”

Study details

The Anglo-American researchers obtained cells from the lungs of 21 asthmatic adults. The cells were then cultured in different media, including pure EPA, EPA-rich media (Epax 4510 TG), DHA, DHA-rich media (Epax 1050 TG), an omega-6 media, or a control media.

The markers of inflammation measured by Mickleborough and his co-workers included leukotriene (LT)B4, prostaglandin (PG)D2, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and interleukin (IL)-1beta production.

Both the pure EPA and the EPA-rich media were found to suppress production of TNF-a, IL-1beta , PGD2, and LTB4 to a much greater extent than either DHA media, said the researchers.

“The present study has shown that the greater the EPA content of a fish oil formulation the greater the inhibition of the inflammatory response,”​ wrote Mickleborough and his co-workers.

“Elucidating the mechanism of this modulation could help us to understand how dietary omega-3 PUFA achieves their specific effects on airway inflammation in asthmatic individuals.”

According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m Europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe €17.7bn every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around €9.8bn.

Source: Clinical Nutrition​Published online ahead of print 2 December 2008, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2008.10.012"Eicosapentaenoic acid is more effective than docosahexaenoic acid in inhibiting proinflammatory mediator production and transcription from LPS-induced human asthmatic alveolar macrophage cells"​ Authors: T.D. Mickleborough, S.L. Tecklenburg, G.S. Montgomery, M.R. Lindley

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