Asthma has become a more common disease nowadays with the rising pollution and extreme cold climate adding to the problem. However, a recent study has found eating at least two portions of salmon, mackerel and sardines a week as a child can halve the risk of developing asthma as getting older.
The study, led by the Queen Mary University of London by associating with the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton, UK, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden has now revealed that giving omega-3 fatty acid-rich food to children helps in preventing asthma later.
Asthma is caused due to airborne allergens, like pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste. Respiratory infections, such as the common cold also lead to asthma. As per the reports, in the UK, 1.1 million children (1 in 11) are currently receiving treatment for asthma and most adult asthma begins in childhood.
Professor Seif Shaheen from the Queen Mary University of London, who is the senior author of the study states that “until now most studies have taken ‘snap-shots’, measuring diet and asthma over a short period of time. Instead, we measured diet and then followed up children over many years to see who developed asthma and who didn’t. Whilst we cannot say for certain that eating more fish will prevent asthma in children, based on our findings, it would nevertheless be sensible for children in the UK to consume more fish, a few currently achieve recommended intake.”
Throughout the study, fish is given special attention because it is a rich source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have anti-inflammatory properties.
The study used data from a large UK birth cohort, which recruited mothers who were pregnant in the early 1990s and have been checking out on their children throughout these years. The researchers examined the association between intake of EPA and DHA from fish at 7 years of age (with food frequency questionnaires) and incidence of new cases of doctor-diagnosed asthma at 11-14 years of age.
Long-chain omega-3 intake from fish was not related to asthma in the cohort as a whole. However, the team looked in more detail at children with a particular genetic make-up. More than half of the children carried a common variant in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene which is associated with lower levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the blood. In those children, a higher dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids showed about a 51 percent lower risk of asthma than those in the top quartile of long-chain omega-3 intake.
Furthermore, an independent birth cohort study in Sweden also made the same conclusion, but the researchers say that they cannot affirm that a higher intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in childhood can prevent asthma.
In the next step of the study, the researchers will observe if a higher intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids results in lowering the risk of asthma condition getting severe in children who already have it.