Omega-3 Fats Slow Age-Related Decline in Lung Function
Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2023)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (August 10, 2023)
Most people don’t realize that they lose lung or breathing capacity as a normal part of aging, but can that be slowed down? The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute completed a two-part study in 2023 that showed that higher intakes and blood levels of omega-3 fats is strongly tied to preserving lung function as we age and slowing down the decline in lung function. As a backdrop to all of this consider the fact that the maximum amount your lungs can hold is about 6-liters of air – about three large soda bottles of air. Your lungs mature by the time you are about 20-25 years old. After about the age of 35, it is normal for your lung function to decline gradually as you age. Spirometry testing is what doctors use to measure lung capacity and lung function. For most people, including healthy people who have never smoked, the forced vital capacity of the lungs declines about 0.2-liters per decade, which represents the maximum amount of air you can forcibly exhale from your lungs after taking a deep breath in. Likewise, the forced expiratory volume (FEV1) declines 1-2% per year after about age 25. This may not sound like much, but it adds up over the course of your life. The forced expiratory volume is the amount of air you can exhale in one second, using maximum force. So, in this two-part study by the NIH group, they followed over 15,000 healthy non-smoking Americans, average age 56, for an average of 7-years.
The study showed that higher levels of omega-3 fats in a person’s blood were associated with a reduced rate of lung function decline. The researchers observed the strongest associations for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that is found at high levels in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. DHA is also included in most fish oil supplements. In the second aspect of the study researchers analysed genetic data from over 500,000 European participants, who are enrolled in the UK Biobank study. The results of this study also showed that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids — including DHA — were associated with better lung function. One of the lead researchers stated, “This large population-based study suggests that nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties may help to maintain lung health,” (James P. Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases).
Unfortunately, the study did not include patients who were suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but other studies have shown promising effects in these patients when they are supplemented with certain antioxidants (vitamin C and E), Co10, vitamin D and various medicinal mushrooms. Whether omega-3 fat supplements can help improve or stabilize COPD will be determined by future research studies. In the meantime, otherwise healthy, non-smoking individuals, should be aware that in addition to the multi-faceted benefits of omega-3 fats identified to date, we likely can also include the slowing of the age-related decline in lung capacity and lung function. This is important stuff, as getting air into the lungs and into our bloodstream is the basis of human life existence.
I personally take a supplement each day that contains fish, flaxseed, and borage seed oil to help maximize the health benefits from the essential fatty acids provided by these sources. Each 1200 mg capsule contains equal amounts of fish, flaxseed, and borage seed oil, and I have taken 2-3 capsules per day for many decades. I have included the NIH – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute study in the text below.
Bonnie K et al. Investigating Associations of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lung Function Decline, and Airway Obstruction. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2023. https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/10.1164/rccm.202301-0074OC
Omega-3 fatty acids appear promising for maintaining lung health. ScienceDaily. July 20, 2023
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.