Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Respiratory Health

Suggestions on how to get more Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet:

  • Aim for 2 to 3 portions of oily fish a week such as salmon, herring, sardines a week. When looking for which fish to buy, choose wild fish over farmed fish.
  • Nuts and seeds are plant-based alternatives that are rich in omega-3. Include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts into your daily diet. Tip: You can add these to your morning porridge or into your smoothies.
  • Use omega-3 rich plant-based oils to drizzle on salads such as flaxseed oil and linseed oil.
  • Some foods have omega-3 added to them, this is known as fortified foods. Check the label on the food package for the amount and type of omega-3 fatty acids. Fortified foods to look out for include eggs, soymilk, butter, yoghurt, and juices.
  • If you feel that you don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet you may want to consider an omega-3 supplement. These supplements include fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil and algal oil. It is important to look for one that has a high amount of DHA omega-3 and a lower amount of EPA omega-3.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids & Respiratory Health: The Key Points

  • Respiratory diseases are primarily driven by inflammation in the lungs1 and therefore, interventions to reduce inflammation play an important role in the prevention and management of respiratory diseases. These types of interventions can include lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, alcohol and physical activity.
  • Certain foods can cause inflammation; these are known as pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar and saturated fat found in packaged and fast foods. Or certain foods can reduce inflammation known as anti-inflammatory foods and these include fruits, vegetables, oily fish and wholegrains.
  • Therefore, to reduce your risk of respiratory diseases and other chronic health conditions you need to increase anti-inflammatory foods and decrease pro-inflammatory foods.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acids which cannot be produced in the body and therefore, we need to eat foods that contain them. As the name suggests there are three types, these include ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
  • It has been well documented that EPA and DHA have beneficial effects on health and has shown to reduce risk to cardiovascular disease2 and respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)3,4.


    1. Mehta, M., Dhanjal, D.S., Paudel, K.R., Singh, B., Gupta, G., Rajeshkumar, S., Thangavelu, L., Tambuwala, M.M., et al. (2020). “Cellular signalling pathways mediating the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory respiratory disease: an update. Inflammopharmacology. 28:795-817.
    2. Jain, A.P., Aggarwal, K.K., and Zhang, P.Y. (2015). “Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease.” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 19(3):441-5.
    3. Papamichael, M.M., Shrestha, S.K., Itsiopoulos, C., and Erbas, B. (2018). “The role of fish intake on asthma in children: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Paediatric Allergy and Immunology. 29(4):350-60.
    4. Wood L.G. (2015). “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 18(2):128-32.