Can You Use Fish Oil for Asthma?

young woman using asthma puffer

There’s conflicting research on using fish oil for asthma. Some studies improved lung function, whereas other studies showed no effect at all.

This article takes a closer look at both sides of this question….

Fish oils contain the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Some benefits of EPA and DHA include lowering your risk for heart disease and reducing inflammation in the body.

The Canadian Lung Association states that asthma is a chronic disease that involves tightening of the airways through mucus build-up and inflammation.

Some research shows that EPA, DHA and fish oils may reduce inflammatory co-factors in the lung and lessen some asthma symptoms:

1. Fish Oils May Reduce Exercise-induced Asthma

Bloomington, Indiana – Researchers discover fish oils improve exercise-induced asthma. Exercise-induced asthma causes shortness of breath during exercise.

Scientists gave patients with exercise-induced asthma fish oils containing 3 grams of EPA and 2 grams of DHA every day for 3 weeks.

Breathing tests were done before, during and after working out.

People taking fish oils:

  • showed no symptoms of asthma and did better on lung function tests
  • reduced their usage of inhaler drugs
  • had lower levels of inflammatory chemicals in their lungs.

2. Essential Fatty Acids Reduce Asthma Symptoms in Children

Japan – Japanese researchers compared the effects of giving olive oil or fish oil in asthmatic children.

Asthmatic children were given average fish oil dosages of 20 mg. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 10 mg. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) per kilogram of body weight for 10 months.

Children taking fish oil showed:

  • less asthma symptoms.
  • increased EPA blood levels.
  • were less likely to experience an asthma attack.

And a more recent study published in the 2015 January issue of Allergology International strongly supports the use of the fatty acids in fish oil for preventing and improving asthma symptoms.

While the above research studies are encouraging, there’s additional research showing that omega 3 fatty acids and fish oils had little or no effect on asthma and its symptoms….

1. Australian Researchers Claim Fish Oils Don’t Improve Asthma

Australia – Researchers looked at nine randomized controlled trials conducted between 1986 and 2001 for the effects of fish oil on inflammatory condition, including asthma.

Results of this review published in the 2002 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found little evidence to recommend that people with asthma supplement or modify their dietary intake of marine n-3 fatty acids (fish oil) in order to improve their asthma control.

2. Vitamin C & E Superior to Fish Oil for Reducing Risk for Asthma

pair of hands holding a green apple and pile of vitamins

Boston – One of the largest studies conducted over a 10 year period on 77,866 women, aged 34 to 68 years old, looked at their risk for asthma based on their dietary amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

The study published in the 1995 May issue of American Journal of Respiratory Care and Critical Medicine found vitamins C and E may protect you from developing asthma, however, the fatty acids in fish oils showed no effect on reducing your risk for asthma.

And Canadian researchers did a review of 10 randomized controlled trials where patient’s used omega 3 fatty acids for treating or preventing asthma. They concluded it was impossible to determine whether or not fish oils are an effective treatment for asthma, due to a wide variety of test results.


The variety of positive and negative results may be due to a number of research variables, such as:

  • some studies used isolated omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, rather than a complete fish oil dosage.
  • there was variety in the overall size and number of participants in each study, so the results may not be reproducible in a larger populations of people.
  • many studies covered different lengths of time with a range of dosages
  • some study participants may or may not have used asthma medications during a particular study

While fish oils can offer a dietary source of omega 3 fatty acids, more research is needed before any definitive conclusion can be made.

It’s unclear whether or not you can use fish oils for preventing or reducing asthma symptoms.


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