Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Delay Deadly Lung Disease

  • The new study was led by Dr. John Kim, an expert in pulmonology and critical care at the University of Virginia School of Medicine

A diet loaded with omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and fatty fish may help slow the progression of pulmonary fibrosis, researchers report.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a relentless and life-threatening disease in which lung tissue scars and hardens over time.

Often related to smoking, the disease affects lung function so that patients become weak and disabled.

The new study was led by Dr. John Kim, a pulmonology and critical care expert at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and UVA Health in Charlottesville.

His team tracked the health of 300 patients with interstitial lung disease, the class of respiratory ailments that includes pulmonary fibrosis. Most had “idiopathic” pulmonary fibrosis (meaning the exact cause of the disease is unknown) and most were men (men are more prone to the disease).

Blood tests were performed to measure each patient’s dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

The team found that “higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids predicted better clinical outcomes in pulmonary fibrosis,” Kim said in a university news release.

Specifically, people with higher levels of the nutrient had lungs that were better able to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen, a process necessary for life. They were also better able to survive without needing a lung transplant, the study found.

“These findings were consistent regardless of whether [o no] “He had a history of cardiovascular disease, suggesting that this could be specific to pulmonary fibrosis,” Kim added.

It’s still unclear how omega-3s are providing this benefit, or whether taking more of the nutrient in foods or supplements would help patients.

However, it’s not the first time that omega-3s have been linked to better health: other studies have shown that fatty acids can improve outcomes for people fighting heart disease, blood clots, and even some types of cancer.

As for pulmonary fibrosis, “we need more research to determine whether there are specific omega-3 fatty acids that might be beneficial and, if so, what their underlying mechanisms are,” Kim said.

“As with other chronic diseases, we hope to determine whether nutrition-related interventions can have a positive impact on pulmonary fibrosis,” he said.