Column #140

“COPD, the fifth-leading cause of death worldwide, is characterized by chronic inflammation” according to the opening statement by Wataru Matsuyama, MD, PhD,, in 2005.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma are similar although the inflammation markers differ. Asthma often starts during childhood and the symptoms typically increase with exposure to allergens and triggers such as pollen, animal dander, and dust mites. Sometimes asthma disappears with age.

COPD primarily hits adults over the age of 40. The classic case is an older current or ex-smoker with progressive shortness of breath and decreasing physical activity (often assumed to be a sign of old age). COPD is usually associated with a long history of smoking or exposure to air pollution while asthma impacts both smokers and non-smokers.

By 2020, COPD is expected to be the world’s third leading cause of death. It’s also considered incurable by the medical community and associations for COPD and lung disease. To no one’s surprise, those groups do not recommend diet as a critically important lifestyle change for addressing COPD. But it could be the most important change and here’s why.

In her 2002 report, “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases,” Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, reviewed 20 years of research regarding the Omega-3 deficiency. Her teaching point was that patients with autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, usually respond to Omega-3 supplementation.

She produced another report in 2002 titled “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” In it she states that, “. . . human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1:1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15:1. Western diets are deficient in Omega-3 and have excessive amounts of Omega-6. A very high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio promotes the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. A ratio of 5:1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10:1 had adverse consequences.”

Dr. Matsuyama’s 2005 study was an Omega-3 test on 64 COPD patients. Half of them received an Omega-3 supplement and the other half did not. He did not measure the change in the EFA ratio although, after two years, test results supported his conclusion that a nutritional treatment with Omega-3 rich foods might be an effective, practical, and safe anti-inflammatory strategy for treating COPD.

Here’s what we know. Essential nutrients are those the body does not synthesize therefore they must be in the diet. The known “essential fats” are Omega-6 and Omega-3. The Omega-3 deficiency is defined by its ratio with Omega-6. Since the body does not synthesize EFAs, if a diet has an EFA ratio of 15:1 the membranes of all the cells in a body will have 15:1 EFA ratios. A high EFA ratio (any level exceeding 4:1), represents an Omega-3 deficiency which negatively impacts brain function, immunity, and the nervous system. Plus the high Omega-6 levels are inflammatory. An EFA ratio of 1:1 is associated with excellent brain, immunity, and nerve function plus low inflammatory levels.

COPD and inflammation go hand in hand. Sugars and carbohydrates are inflammatory. The same is true with high EFA ratios. Together they greatly increase the odds of an inflammatory state. Dr. Matsuyama’s Omega-3 supplement study only focused on increasing Omega-3 consumption yet it still confirmed a reduction of inflammation in COPD sufferers. If COPD sufferers cut out all high glycemic foods and reduce their EFA ratios to 2:1 or slightly less, it’s likely their quality of life will improve significantly.

Changing the diet takes discipline. Sugars and carbohydrates are especially addictive. Yet COPD patients can learn to relish the proper foods and, as their inflammation subsides, enjoy activities they thought they would never experience again.

The worst foods, high glycemic and/or those with high EFA ratios, include grains, pastries, breads, most oils, nuts, grain-fed livestock products, candy, and even some fruits. These foods have EFA ratios that range from 10:1 to 30:1 and some have no Omega-3 at all.

The best foods are low glycemic, nutrient dense and diverse with very low EFA ratios. They include grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, wild-caught seafood, most vegetables (especially green leafy), and a few fruits.

People with COPD who want to address their affliction with diet are advised to take an Omega-3 test then change their food selections accordingly. Taking a teaspoon a day of fish oil and using flaxseed oil for a salad dressing will accelerate the lowering of the EFA ratio. Then after four to six months retake the Omega-3 test and note the progress in both the declining ratio and the COPD symptoms.

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don’t miss these links for additional reading:

Knowing the Differences Between COPD and Asthma Is Vital to Good Practice by Anna Murphy

COPD and Air Pollution from Health Union, LLC.

Why Is There No COPD Cure? Breaking Down the Science from Lung Institute

How Is COPD Treated from American Lung Association

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases by A.P. Simopoulos, MD.

The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids by A.P. Simopoulos, M.D.

Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Markers in COPD by Wataru Matsuyama, MD, PhD

Evidence Points to Fish Oil to Fight Asthma

Is Asthma Man-Made? by Ted Slanker

Food Analysis: GI, GL, Fat Ratio, Nutrient Load by Ted Slanker

Low Fat: High Ignorance by Ted Slanker

Fibromyalgia Mystery Solved by Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker’s Omega-3 Blood Test

Omega-3 Blood Test and use slanker as a code for a discount