Mussel oil returns as treatment for asthma

JAMES BRADY: More active after mussel medication.
JAMES BRADY: More active after mussel medication.

Oil from New Zealand shellfish is being touted as a wonder treatment for children with asthma.

The humble green lipped mussel is making waves here and overseas for its anti-inflammatory properties.

A New Zealand-based study found the mussel's fatty lipid acid effectively reduces the severity of asthmatic symptoms in children.

It's a comeback for Lyprinol, which was falsely hailed as a cancer cure by drug manufacturer Pacific Pharmaceuticals and Lyprinol New Zealand in 2000.

The companies were fined after pleading guilty to distributing false medical claims about the oil's effect on cancer and arthritis.

But an Auckland-based study showed that, in capsule form, the supplement works alongside conventional steroid-based inhaled medicine to reduce the severity of symptoms and limit attacks.

The results were published in the Internet Journal of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, sparking a larger study in Australia.

The New Zealand study's lead researcher and asthma expert, Dr Jim Lello, is excited about the product's potential.

"Since the 1970s, preventative steroid medicines have been prescribed for moderate and severe asthma, which is taken pretty much year round," Lello said.

"We thought if the oil could reduce the amount of medication, that would be a good thing."

Between 70 and 80 children with moderate asthma took part in a randomised controlled trial over three years, with some positive effects.

Mt Wellington 12-year-old James Brady has been able to cut back the amount of preventative medication he takes each day, and has fewer attacks.

James used to take six puffs of his preventative inhaler twice a day when he took part in the study at age 9. He relied on his ventolin relief inhaler every day and was regularly admitted to hospital for attacks.

"He seldom needs it now," his mum Colleen says of the relief inhaler. "And he only needs one puff of his preventative inhaler twice a day now."

Colleen has kept her son on two lyprinol capsules twice a day as a complementary treatment, which she attributes to improving his health.

Children tend to grow out of asthma, but Colleen believes lyprinol played a part.

"It's far better to have him on something natural and reduce the amount of steroid cortizone-based drugs."

James's breathing has improved so much that he has managed to take up trumpet lessons. He even forgot he was prone to attacks, which gave him a shock when he left his ventolin at home one day.

"It gave him a fright last November when he had a mild attack. He'd forgotten he needed it."

The combination of omega-3 lipid fractions in lyprinol is widely available in New Zealand, Australia and 28 more countries around the world, Lello said.

Children with food allergies can also take the oil extract which was found to be devoid of allergens associated with shellfish protein, Lello said.

The study was conducted through Asthma Auckland, an arm of the Asthma Foundation of New Zealand, and funded by Pharmalink.

Three trends were recorded by participants' parents using the Juniper Scale quality of life measure – with physical, emotional and social improvements recorded.

Sunday Star Times