Omega-3 fatty acid intake and prevalent respiratory symptoms among U.S. adults with COPD

S. Chantal M. Lemoine, Emily P. Brigham, Han Woo, Corrine K. Hanson, Meredith C. McCormack, Abigail Koch, Nirupama Putcha, Nadia N. Hansel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and derivatives, play a key role in the resolution of inflammation. Higher intake has been linked to decreased morbidity in several diseases, though effects on respiratory diseases like COPD are understudied. Methods: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), with a focus on dietary assessment, provides a unique opportunity to explore relationships between omega-3 intake and morbidity in respiratory diseases marked by inflammation in the United States (US) population. We investigated relationships between ALA or EPA + DHA intake and respiratory symptoms among US adults with COPD, as well as variation in relationships based on personal characteristics or exposures. Results: Of 878 participants, mean age was 60.6 years, 48% were current smokers, and 68% completed high school. Omega-3 intake was, 1.71 ± 0.89 g (ALA), and 0.11 ± 0.21 g (EPA + DHA). Logistic regression models, adjusting for age, gender, race, body mass index, FEV1, education, smoking status, pack-years, total caloric intake, and omega-6 (linoleic acid, LA) intake demonstrated no primary associations between omega-3 intake and respiratory symptoms. Interaction terms were used to determine potential modification of relationships by personal characteristics (race, gender, education) or exposures (LA intake, smoking status), demonstrating that at lower levels of LA intake, increasing ALA intake was associated with reduced odds of chronic cough (pint = 0.015) and wheeze (pint = 0.037). EPA + DHA, but not ALA, was associated with reduced symptoms only among current smokers who did not complete high school. Conclusions: Individual factors should be taken into consideration when studying the association of fatty acid intake on respiratory diseases, as differential responses may reveal susceptible subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number97
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 21 2019


  • COPD
  • Education
  • Fatty acid
  • Omega
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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