The type of fats and oils consumed in the diet may have an influence on asthma symptoms. Fatty acids are the precursors to prostaglandins and other chemicals that are involved with inflammation. Some fatty acids produce substances that increase inflammation and others produce anti-inflammatory substances.
Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, act to reduce inflammation. There is some scientific evidence that the consumption of fish and fish oils may be beneficial to asthma patients. One article (“Increased Consumption of Polyunsaturated Oils May Be a Cause of Increased Prevalence of Childhood Asthma”, Hodge, L., et al, Australian New Zealand Journal of Medicine, 1994;24:727) state that the increase in the occurrence of asthma parallels the increase in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids in comparison to the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Omeag-6 fatty acids can produce the anti-inflammatory substance, prostaglandin 1, but trans fats, sugar and other substances in the diet can cause them to produce the pro-inflammatory prostaglandin 2. The authors note that the prevalence of asthma is low in countries on the Mediterranean In these countries, there is a high consumption of olive oil, which is low in omega-6 fatty acids. Scandinavian countries also have a low incidence of asthma; in those countries there is a high consumption of oily fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They also state that respiratory function improved in asthmatics supplemented with fish oil for nine months.
The idea that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial to asthmatics is echoed in another journal article (“Diet and Asthma: Has the Role of Dietary Lipids Been Overlooked in the Management of Asthma?” Spector SL, Surette ME, Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, April 2003;90:371-377.). The authors state that inflammatory substances like leukotrienes can be reduced by omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Leukotrienes are made from arachadonic acid, which is a fatty acid found in meat.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation also seems to benefit those who suffer from exercise induced asthma. One journal article (“Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in asthma- and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction,” Mickleborough TD, Rundell KW, Eur J Clin Nutr., 2005; 59(12): 1335-46) states that one reason for the increase of asthma in Western society is the fact that omega-6 fatty acid consumption exceeds omega-3 fatty acid consumption by 20-25 fold. This imbalance in oil consumption produces pro-inflammatory substances that contribute to asthma. The author suggests omega-3 supplementation for exercise induced asthma.