Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been reported to inhibit exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). It has not been determined whether omega-3 supplements inhibit airway sensitivity to inhaled mannitol, a test for bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) and model for EIB in people with mild to moderate asthma.
In a double-blind, crossover trial, subjects with asthma who had BHR to inhaled mannitol (n = 23; 14 men; mean age, 28 years; one-half taking regular inhaled corticosteroids) were randomized to omega-3 supplements (4.0 g/d eicosapentaenoic acid and 2.0 g/d docosahexaenoic acid) or matching placebo for 3 weeks separated by a 3-week washout. The primary outcome was the provoking dose of mannitol (mg) to cause a 15% fall in FEV1 (PD15). Secondary outcomes were sputum eosinophil count, spirometry, Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) score, serum triacylglyceride level, and lipid mediator profile in urine and serum.
PD15 (geometric mean, 95% CI) to mannitol following supplementation with omega-3s (78 mg, 51-119 mg) was not different from placebo (88 mg, 56-139 mg, P = .5). There were no changes in sputum eosinophils (mean ± SD) in a subgroup of 11 subjects (omega-3, 8.4% ± 8.2%; placebo, 7.8% ± 11.8%; P = .9). At the end of each treatment period, there were no differences in FEV1 % predicted (omega-3, 85% ± 13%; placebo, 84% ± 11%; P = .9) or ACQ score (omega-3, 1.1% ± 0.5%; placebo, 1.1% ± 0.5%; P = .9) (n = 23). Omega-3s caused significant lowering of blood triglyceride levels and expected shifts in serum fatty acids and eicosanoid metabolites, confirming adherence to the supplements; however, no changes were observed in urinary mast cell mediators.
Three weeks of omega-3 supplements does not improve BHR to mannitol, decrease sputum eosinophil counts, or inhibit urinary excretion of mast cell mediators in people with mild to moderate asthma, indicating that dietary omega-3 supplementation is not useful in the short-term treatment of asthma.
ClinicalTrials.gov; No.: NCT00526357; URL: www.clinicaltrials.gov.