Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish and fish oil supplements, appear promising for maintaining lung health, according to new evidence from a large, multi-faceted study in healthy adults supported by the National Institutes of Health.
The study provides the strongest evidence to date of this association and underscores the importance of including omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, especially given that many Americans do not meet current guidelines. Funded largely by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, the study results were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers divided the study into two parts. In the first part, they conducted a longitudinal, observational study involving 15,063 Americans from the NHLBI Pooled Cohorts Study — a large collection of NIH-funded studies that helps researchers to study determinants of personalized risk for chronic lung disease. The longitudinal study showed that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in a person’s blood were associated with a reduced rate of lung function decline.
In the second part, the researchers analyzed genetic data from a large study of European patients (over 500,000 participants) from the UK Biobank. They studied certain genetic markers in the blood as an indirect measure, or proxy, for dietary omega-3 fatty acid levels to see how they correlated with lung health. The results showed that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids — including DHA — were associated with better lung function.