Taking fish oil supplements appears to significantly reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in elite athletes, reports a research team from the University of Indiana and Cardiff, Wales.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or exercise-induced asthma, occurs in 80 - 90 per cent of individuals with asthma and in approximately 11 per cent of the general population without asthma, according to a recent estimation. The condition which causes airways to narrow produces shortness of breath, chest tightness and discomfort or pain, and results in a reduction in post-exercise pulmonary function.
In a small, randomized, double-blind crossover study, the investigators found that fish oil supplements produced a marked improvement in symptoms after only three weeks.
The researchers used 20 male and female elite athletes, including triathletes, cross-country runners and track runners. Half of these had EIB and the other group had no symptoms of the condition. All athletes began the study on their normal diet and then received either fish oil capsules containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) or placebo capsules filled with olive oil daily for three weeks.
In subjects with EIB, the omega-3 PUFA diet improved post-exercise pulmonary function compared with normal and placebo diets. When measured at 15 minutes post-exercise, pulmonary function test results showed a 3 per cent decrease in PUFA diet participants, compared with a 14.5 per cent decrease on the placebo diet, and a 17.3 per cent decrease on the normal diet.
Pro-inflammatory mediators all decreased significantly on the fish oil diet compared with the other two diets, write the authors in the 15 November issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"These data suggest that dietary fish oil supplementation has a markedly protective effect in suppressing EIB in elite athletes, and this may be attributed to their antiinflammatory properties," they concluded.