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Can Omega-3 Supplements Improve Lung Function?

Taking omega-3 supplements may not only help exercise lung function in athletes, but diseased lungs as well. Find out why.

Athletes who want to breathe easier when they exercise could get a little help by taking omega-3 supplements. A new study shows that the ever popular omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements boost lung function during exercise.

Omega-3’s Help Athletes Breathe Better

In this study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, researchers recruited forty male wrestlers. The wrestlers were divided into four groups. One group supplemented with 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 and participated in exercise training. A second group received exercise training and a placebo pill, while a third group received an omega-3 supplement without any training. A fourth got only a placebo pill.

When they tested the lung function of each group of wrestlers, the group that received the omega-3 supplement with exercise training showed improvements in their exercise lung function – including an increase in lung volume and total lung capacity. It seems that taking omega-3 supplements could be a boon for exercising athletes and anyone else who works out aerobically.

Taking Omega-3’s Helps People with Lung Disease Too

Taking omega-3 supplements may do more than just help athletes in their sport. A study carried out in 2006 showed that omega-3 fatty acids can improve lung function in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (COPD). COPD sufferers experienced less shortness of breath and greater exercise tolerance when they ate a diet rich in the omega-3’s found in fatty fish.

Why Do Omega-3’s Improve Lung Function?

Why would taking omega-3 supplements help athletes and people with lung diseases such as COPD breathe easier? Omega-3’s are known to have anti-inflammatory effects, and inflammation causes the airways to narrow so that it’s more difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. Omega-3’s reduces the inflammation making it easier for COPD sufferers and athletes alike to breathe better. People who have COPD and take omega-3 supplements or get omega-3’s from food sources have lower levels of sputum markers for inflammation.

Can taking omega-3 supplements help asthmatics too? It would make sense since asthma is another lung disease that’s associated with inflamed airways. Large, well conducted studies need to be done in this area, although small studies show potential benefits.

The Bottom Line?

The omega-3’s in fish oil looks promising for improving exercise lung function and for helping people with lung disease such as COPD and asthma breathe a little easier. The good news is omega-3 supplements have few side effects with the exception of mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as indigestion and burping. The one group of people who shouldn’t take them are people on blood thinners. As always, check with a doctor before starting any type of supplement.

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