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Life-threatening lung fibrosis can he helped with healthy omega-3 fatty acids

Life-threatening lung fibrosis can he helped with healthy omega-3 fatty acidsLung fibrosis is a condition characterized by accelerating scarring of lung tissue, which impairs breathing, reduces the oxygen level in the blood, and lowers the cellular energy turnover. Some types of lung fibrosis are very aggressive and there is currently no cure. Healthy omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish and fish oil supplements may delay the progression of the disease and postpone the immediate need for lung transplants, according to a study that is published in the journal CHEST.

Fibrosis is the formation of scar tissue. In patients with lung fibrosis, the lungs gradually lose their ability to take up oxygen and release carbon dioxide, as scarring of the lung tissue gets worse. The symptoms are often insidious and include increasing breathing difficulty, tiredness, dry cough, and in some cases enlarged fingertips and nails. The disease typically occurs after the age of 60, and men and smokers have a higher risk. The underlying causes are fairly unknown but may be related to infections, allergies, asbestos, sandblasting, metal dust, mold, contact with birds (e.g., pigeons and parrots), radiation, chemotherapy, or other things that can harm the airways. There may even be problems with unfavorable healing processes (such as hypertrophic scarring).
There are different types of lung fibrosis. Cases where inflammation is part of the picture are treated with immunomodulating drugs. Idiopathic lung fibrosis (IPF), where the underlying cause is unknown, requires treatment with anti-fibrotic medicine and may require a lung transplant. In patients who do not receive any type of treatment, the average survival time is only 3-5-years.
Many patients are diagnosed with lung fibrosis when it is too late, and their prognosis is often poor. For that reason, there is a great need for improved treatment, and preclinical trials have already suggested that omega-3 fatty acids and their metabolites have a protective effect on lung damage and fibrosis. But so far, science has not proven if a high omega-3 intake is related to disease progression and survival.

Dietary omega-3 fatty acids

  • ALA: Flaxseed oil, rapeseed oil, walnuts, and chia seeds.
  • EPA and DHA: Oily fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, and lumpsucker and fish oil/codliver oil
  • Many people have difficulty with converting ALA into the active forms, EPA and DHA

More omega-3 in the diet as a new treatment strategy

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential because they are structural components in cell membranes where they regulate different metabolic processes. In the new study, the scientists looked at blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which is a useful way of assessing the dietary content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids were measured in blood samples from more than 300 patients with different types of clinical fibrosis. Omega-3 fatty acid levels were measured from plasma samples of patients with clinically diagnosed pulmonary fibrosis from the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago cohorts.
The scientists were especially interested in the biologically active forms, EPA and DHA, and their relation to changes in FVC (Forced Vital Capacity) over a period of 12 months. FVC is the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs after taking the deepest breath possible. Low FVC is seen in connection with lung fibrosis and other pulmonary diseases. The scientists also conducted a lung diffusion test (DCLO), which is a type of pulmonary function test that shows how well your lungs are working. It uses a gas containing carbon monoxide to measure how much oxygen moves from your lungs to your blood when you inhale.
Most patients were men (74%), and most (88%) suffered from idiopathic lung fibrosis (IPF). The study associated higher plasma levels of omega-3 with a better ability to exchange carbon dioxide and longer survival without the need for a lung transplant. This did not vary much regardless of smoking, history of cardiovascular disease, and antibiotic use. The scientists therefore assume that omega-3 fatty acids have a specific effect on lung fibrosis and that higher levels of omega-3 in the blood can predict better clinical results.


University of Virginia Health System. Healthy omega-3 fats may slow deadly pulmonary fibrosis. ScienceDaily. 2024

John S. Kim et al.  Associations of Plasma Omega-3 Fatty Acids With Progression and Survival in Pulmonary Fibrosis. CHEST. 2023

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