Omega-3s may be a lung’s best defense against infection, according to new research. Compounds derived from the fatty acids cleared a nasty type of bacteria in a study conducted at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Nontypeable Haemophilus influenza (NTHi), is a bacteria that often plagues people with inflammatory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Doctors usually treat patients with anti-inflammatory drugs, but those suppress the immune system. This puts patients at risk for secondary infections, most commonly NTHi bacterial infections.
A team led by Richard Phipps PhD, professor of environmental medicine and director of the URSMD Lung Biology and Disease Program, tested whether an inhalable version of omega-3 derivatives could fight NTHi lung infections in mice. Results, published in The Journal of Immunology, suggest that they can.
"We never really knew why diets high in omega fatty acids seemed good, but now we know it's because they provide the precursors for molecules that help shut down excessive inflammation," Phipps said in a university release.
The puffs of omega-3 reduced inflammation in the lungs of mice without suppressing their immune systems. If it works in people, it may have the potential to not only improve the lives of the millions who suffer from COPD, it may also be used to treat ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, which are also caused by NTHi.
Other recent research about omega-3s and lung function found that the fatty acids may reduce the risk of asthma in young adults.